UK retail sales are declining, with Visa data revealing that consumer spending is continuing to fall.
As consumer confidence is rocked and costs increase, retailers are cutting jobs at a sharp pace, shutting stores to eliminate high operating overheads and placing greater focus on their ecommerce channel.
But, prioritizing ecommerce over in-store doesn’t come without its challenges. In today’s competitive climate, it’s critical that ecommerce experiences adapt to the rapidly evolving demands of the customer.
If they don’t, they risk losing customers to another brand that does it better.
While some retailers may fail to adapt, those that create seamless experiences will succeed. These are experiences that connect the dots between the physical and digital customer journey, from desktop, mobile, and in-store engagements. It’s not just about the channel consumers interact with retailers via either, they’ll expect shopping to feel more like entertainment; an enjoyable experience rather than a means to an end.
How can brands accomplish this? Personalisation is a prime way for brands to provide standout customer experiences. There are multiple channels that customer data can be pulled from, whether it’s e-marketing databases, loyalty cards, tracking online activity across various devices, or monitoring customer engagement on social media.
By pulling and combining this data to gain a singular view of a customer, retailers can then create a predictive customer profile. By connecting the dots of previous engagements, retailers can forecast potential future interactions, the products they’re likely to purchase, the device they’ll use, and which offers are most expected to sway them. In turn, this will enable retailers to be more proactive with personalisation.
Retailers will be able to go beyond just providing personalised product recommendations based on what consumers know they like and will be able to introduce consumers to products they’ll like and love that they hadn’t previously considered.
As Adobe’s Future of Experience report revealed, serendipity is a crucial tenet of the customer experience. When a brand understands their customer’s preferences and presents what they need in a way in which it seems serendipitous rather than creepy, then loyalty improves, both in-store and online.
Taking a customer-centric view
Taking a customer centric-view, and rethinking the customer journey is essential. Retailers need to build a strategic, omnichannel approach that considers how customers research the products they buy, and on which device their interest is most likely to convert to a purchase.
If a customer has looked at an item multiple times on mobile but made the purchase on a desktop, retailers need to ask themselves what frictions they’re experiencing on these devices. Is content not optimised for mobile, or too small? Is it taking too long to load? Could they implement easier payment methods, such as mobile wallets? Do they not trust their mobile connection to hold during the transaction?
Similarly, if retailers are seeing higher browsing rates via desktop, they need to consider why they aren’t taking a bigger slice of mobile share. Perhaps their ad channels could be reconsidered, or their social media strategy updated with the mobile user in mind, or content needs to be updated to utilise the mobile device form-factor.
Aside from ‘traditional’ devices, intelligent voice assistants are rapidly gaining popularity across the globe, with online sales growing by 103% year-over-year. Retailers need to ensure that they offer a voice-driven retail experience and that their SEO is designed to provide that their products come top of the stack when a consumer is looking for a particular product.
Ecommerce experiences across multiple devices don’t just impact online sales – they have a monumental impact on in-store purchases too. In fact, a study by Forrester revealed that 45% of in-store purchases will be web-influenced by 2020. Brands must view the web and mobile traffic as a means not only for online sales but boost footfall too. But it’s not just enough to get them there; once the consumer is in-store, they need to receive the same, consistent experience as they would online.
Incorporating new technologies into the in-store experience is a good place to start. Retailers should take the personalisation they offer to customers in store, and tailor their visual merchandising and in-store screen displays around the customers’ previous activity. They might direct them to the location of a product that they’ve been looking at online, or offer recommendations to pull together a full outfit ensemble.
Geolocation information is also an invaluable tool, enabling retailers to send push notifications to the consumer if they are nearby, and provide relevant, contextual offers that entice them to get to know the retailer in store, rather than just online.
Faced with instability and a fall in consumer confidence, the top priority for brands over the next few years should be the ability, and readiness, to embrace change. Creating a seamless customer experience is important, and the most successful brands today will use every platform in their arsenal to attract sales both online and in-store. By embracing new technology with open arms, and providing personalised experiences, retailers will improve the customer experiences, build customer loyalty, and expand margins as a result.
Author: Vijayanta Gupta, head of go-to-market for experience cloud at Adobe
Image credit: Fotolia