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Standing out in a crowded marketplace

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Today’s shoppers are no longer limited to buying from their local high street or retail park. Instead, they have technology in their pockets that enables them to buy from the online stores that line the virtual floors and aisles of a global mall. The challenge now for retailers and brands is about how to stand out from the competition on a ‘mall’ that is very often only accessed via the small screen of a smartphone.

More shoppers are now buying online, and more online shoppers are buying via their mobile phones. As far back as 2016, figures from etail trade association the IMRG suggested that more than half of all online sales took place via mobile devices and as recently as February 2018 its figures suggested they grew by 38.5% in February 2018 alone. Today merchandising platform Amplience suggests that 90% of ecommerce growth is now from mobile commerce. 

The task for retailers is to put their goods in front of shoppers who are already keen to buy them, at the right time and in the right place. It’s about ensuring that their goods are relevant – and that they stand out. 

“One of the biggest challenges in ecommerce is differentiation,” says James White, head of business development at personalisation specialist Nosto. “You can almost buy anything you want from anywhere, whether that’s Amazon or another retailer online. The price is always very competitive. The biggest question is, why should these customers buy from me and not someone else?” He adds: “Personalisation, merchandising, relevancy of product is almost more important now than it was because there are so many product options and prices to choose from.”

According to research from application network provider MuleSoft, which interviewed 8,000 people around the world including 2,000 in the UK for its Consumer Connectivity Insights 2018 report, only 50% of respondents around the world believed that retailers provided them with a personalised experience. That fell to 45% in the UK. More than half (56%) said they would move between retailers if they had a disconnected experience across different channels. At the bottom line, almost a third (32%) said they spent more with a retailer that provided a personalised service than one that did not. 

Using data to make it relevant

When retailers can recognise customers as they visit the website or engage via other channels, seeing how and when they browse and buy, thanks to their single view of the customer, they have a significant source of data. They can then use that data to deliver personalised messages, and show personalised website pages that contain content that’s relevant to what the customer wants to buy, and how they want to shop. That’s important because sending irrelevant messages to shoppers is likely to raise opt-out levels. In the same way, showing shoppers irrelevant products on a website is likely to result in them moving on to another website – fast. So just how are retail businesses making their content relevant?

Simon Jaffrey, head of product management, at data intelligence company Qubit says it’s seeing more shoppers browsing via mobile, either in store or while they’re out and about, finding the product they want on a small screen before transferring to a desktop or laptop to complete the transaction. “Where we’re working with our customers is to help them inspire their customers along the journey, give the right prompting cues to maintain the relationship with the customer until they are ready to make a purchase, on the device that makes sense to them,” he says. Merchandisers, he says, now have the data they need in order to understand what their customers want from them and can then give their customers an experience on their website that reflects that. He’s says that the relationship between retailer and shopper is ultimately about trust: if the retailer gives the customer the experience they want, they will be rewarded with the shopper’s attention and engagement.

Jaffrey cites work that Qubit has done with cosmetics company L’Occitane to let shoppers know why they are seeing a particular product recommendation, based on their previous shopping history and their real-time journey through the website. “We’re using simple messages around, ‘this is being shown for you because…’ or ’25 other people like you interacted with this’. It’s about giving that customer comfort and security to understand why it’s being selected for them. This can now be decided in real time, based on what they looked at in the past.” Technology that works in real time, he says, is giving merchandisers the competitive advantage of speed, enabling them to respond to customer behaviour straight away.

For fashion retailers, one key challenge is to show customers the very latest trends in a fashion fashion world. Amplience worked with Swedish retailer Nelly to help it show the latest fast fashion product images to its shoppers. “For online-only retailers like Nelly, it is essential that rich media, such as interactive product images, can be created and delivered rapidly to the consumer to capitalise on the style of the day,” it said.

Also relevant to shoppers are the details: as well as ensuring they see the products that are relevant to their search and interests, it’s also important they see the right delivery options, depending on where they are in the world, price matching, and social proof in the form of reviews and ratings.

A longer version of this feature will appear in the forthcoming IRUK Top500 Merchandising Performance Dimension Report. Click here to explore this series further.

Image: Fotolia

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