Paul Skeldon, Mobile Editor, InternetRetailing.net investigates how retailers are creating a seamless, multiplatform, multi-device experience for shoppers.
Consumers now ‘shop’ across a wide range of devices – including in shops – and the ‘shopping’ process is one that encompasses browsing, searching, comparing, reviewing, not just the actual buying part. In fact, ‘shopping’ is now a multiplatform, multi-device experience for most shoppers. If only it were for most retailers.
In fact, getting the user experience right across all these devices and channels – as well as getting it right and consistent across the different ‘modi shoparandi’ that consumers now have is possibly the biggest single challenge in retail today.
It is all about getting the experience consistent and the same across all devices, right? Wrong. While it may seem counterintuitive, the move towards shoppers flitting from one device to another, into a store and then back to the web should be a challenge in how to get the experience the same across all these faces, but it isn’t.
Instead, the challenge faced by retailers today is to personalise the experience for the user – and part of that personalisation involves personalising the experience from device to device. For each consumer. Personally.
Who, What, Where and Why
Of course, behind the scenes there is the further complication that this personalised approach needs to somehow work seamlessly across retailer ERP and CRM, stock control, marketing and POS systems, but as far as the consumer is concerned what you are really trying to deliver is a personal experience at the front-end that, in an ideal world, intuitively knows the person, the device and what they are doing and where they are doing it.
The problem is that many retailers don’t understand the subtle but important distinction between segmentation and personalisation, says Mike Harris, VP EMEA at Monetate.
“Instead of offering truly personal encounters with customers, a large number of retailers simply optimise or segment online experiences when they could be offering so much more,” he says. “Imagine you are in a restaurant and the waiter asks, ‘how would you like your steak cooked?’; the options on offer are usually limited to ‘rare, medium or well done’. However, true personalisation would see the waiter offering you ‘medium-to-well done steak, with honey glaze and a side of creamed potatoes’.”
So, how do you go about delivering an experience that is dripping in honey glaze? “Our first tip for engaging new customers is to understand what type of persona they are based on what we know about them,” says Alan Thomas, Global Head of Digital Marketing and CRM at La Perla. “Are they a value seeker? An impulse shopper? A comparison shopper? We can usually categorise them early on by looking at factors such as how they arrived at our site, what pages they have visited, what products they browsed, etc, and then comparing their behaviours to those of similar customers in our historical data. Once we know what kind of shoppers they are, we can target them very effectively with personalised, relevant offers and information.”
Thomas explains further: “For example, if we can predict that they’re looking for a certain product or style or collection, we try to present them with the relevant information as quickly as possible. If we determine that they’re shopping for a gift, we try to provide them with the right kinds of gift ideas. If they just want to browse online, but then purchase in our retail stores, we try helping them find a store nearby.”
So, how do you do it? From a customer-facing point of view, one way to learn is to look at the best things that you do in each channel and work out how to apply them in other channels.
“So what can the online ‘shop’ learn from the real world shop?” says Joe Ballard from Hybris SAP. “In a store when you hand over the money at the cash register there is usually some human-to-human interaction often with the shopper seeking reassurance that they can bring the items back if they don’t fit or aren’t suitable. You need to look at how best to add that at the checkout online or on mobile, for example.”
This is where things such as live chat could be a boon. However, as many keen eyed observers may note, Amazon sort of tried this around the launch of its Kindle Fire, but keeps very quiet about it today.
With mobile you have to know why people use mobile and offer the appropriate experience, says Ballard. “More than 50% of people abandon purchases at checkout on mobile, but that doesn’t mean that mobile is broken – more it means that people don’t want to use it to actually purchase but for other parts of the process, so design your mobile experience accordingly.”
From a technical point of view the challenges are seemingly enormous, but many retailers are delaying their personalisation efforts based on two misconceptions. The first of these is that it is hard. Retailers believe implementing personalisation will create more work that will have to be designed, tested and measured.
The second misconception is that it is complex. Shattering one customer journey into multiple different journeys based on platform is going to be difficult and time consuming. A few retailers have already discovered these are myths and are acting on this knowledge to their advantage.
“The truth is that personalisation is far easier than many brands think,” says Monetate’s Harris. “Any web page, any email and all mobile interactions can be personalised and linked across channels. It’s not hard. It’s not complex. If anything, it should take just a couple of people to create and deploy personalised experiences for a few dozen meaningful audience segments. It can even be done in a couple of lunch breaks. In fact, IT shouldn’t even need to be involved. They’re busy enough, and it should only take a week to have a personalisation strategy in place – taking minutes to launch a campaign.”
In many retailers, the different channels are already siloed in quite a profound way. To many this has been viewed as being a bad thing, but in reality, it could well be what makes personalising the experience by device easier to achieve. The experience in fact does need to be siloed to work – the clever part is how you offer what is needed on each while still keeping the look and feel the same.
There is also the further challenge of how to allow exceptions to this, such as how to encourage more people to actually purchase on mobile. This will be fixed by payments, believes Hybris SAP’s Ballard.
“Things like Apple Pay, quick and secure in-app purchases and the use of the unique ID factors around a mobile number and a thumbprint are all going to make buying easier,” he says. “But mobile won’t replace desktop or store purchases, they will all just work together.”
Office Depot gets personal
Office Depot is a leading reseller of workplace products and services in Europe. It works with more than 6,000 associates under two brands: Office Depot and Viking. Established in 1986, Office Depot now operates worldwide in nearly 60 countries.
The company needed a personalisation solution that would enable it to track the behaviour of customer segments and easily create targeted experiences without using internal IT resources. Turning to Monetate’s platform, Office Depot was able to achieve these goals and dramatically increase site engagement.
The retailer created tablet-specific navigation, added countdown timers to drive urgency on time-sensitive promotions, and executed multiple campaigns in real time.
The results were impressive. The retailer managed to launch 44 campaigns in the first 4 months and increased conversion rates by up to 3%. It also generated more than £2.5m in projected annual revenue.
By creating tablet-specific navigation it produced a 22% increase in revenue per session and generated more than £1.3m in projected annual revenue through use of a “free next-day delivery” countdown timer.
Before Monetate, Office Depot relied solely on its legacy ecommerce platform, which made it nearly impossible to target customers in real time. Even the smallest site change had to be processed by the internal IT department.
“We’re passionate about our customers and are constantly looking for ways to better understand their needs,” says Jonathan Newman, VP E-commerce & Marketing Operations at Office Depot. “Monetate’s technology allows us to create, test, and deploy personalised experiences on the web. With Monetate, we can change any aspect of our website and target those changes to specific audience segments. For every dollar we spend with Monetate, I’m confident that we’ll see a return of 15x return on investment in 2015 and 2016.”