Customer Experience Strategy Best Practices For Retail/Digital
Today’s shopper (retail or online) is looking for an engaging customer experience during the “shoppable moments” in their life. You as a business owner are looking for proven customer experience strategy best practices to grow your business.
Typically, agencies and/or brands would deploy marketing strategies using standard promotional campaigns. Today though, smart and savvy retail businesses are using search marketing (SEO & SEM), social media advertising, and artificial intelligence (AI).
According to a study by Avionos, titled “Enabling Experience-Driven Commerce Anytime, Anywhere”, customers want to be engaged the minute they begin searching for merchandise.
So where do your shoppers start their search? I bet you’re thinking their customer experience starts via a search engine like Google or Bing.
You may be surprised. Check out these highlights from the study (n=1,450):
- Two-thirds (66%) of consumers begin their search for products on Amazon or Google.
- One-third (33%) of respondents said they begin their search on Amazon.
- Just less than one-third (32%) begin with a Google search.
- Almost half (42%) of consumers feel that AI will make checkouts much faster.
- Nearly two-thirds (63%) prefer to purchase big ticket items like electronics or furniture in a store, while 52% said they prefer to research these products on desktop or mobile devices, prior to purchasing.
- More than half (54%) of consumers say they feel more confident in their online purchases if the retailer offers detailed product specs and 49% feel more confident if a product listing offers some extra content.
How Do You Optimize Your Customer Shopping Experience?
After reading this study I got to thinking, so how do we best optimize our customers’ shopping experience on our client’s websites?
From a marketers perspective, we’d need to understand retail trends, target consumers online shopping habits, their preferences, and expectations.
There are 3 main insights uncovered in the study and they all revolve around retail adapting to digital marketing strategies and implementing search marketing, social marketing, and website marketing tactics.
You’ll find these insights below. If you’d like to chat with me now to discuss building a strategy for your business, please contact me now.
1. Search Marketing
As stated above, Google and Amazon are big search channels for consumers. 66% of consumers begin their search on Amazon or Google.
This presents you as a retailer with a glorious opportunity to get a leg up using a tactical SEO strategy. Generally, consumers look to Amazon for specific purchases, whereas Google is their source for ideas. It all starts with search!
Consumers are less likely to visit a brand or retailer’s site as their first destination for a product search. Still, search within a brand or retailer’s site is important.
15% of consumers with purchase intent and 17% of consumers without purchase intent start their search on a brand’s site.
If you think about it, what’s fascinating is that Google and Amazon have shifted consumer behaviour. These days, consumers don’t simply navigate and browse for random purchases online. Instead, they can now search for their specific needs, and more importantly, wants.
Action Steps For Retailers:
- Retailers should prioritize both paid and organic search marketing.
- If implemented correctly, and strategically, brands and retailers will achieve Page 1 rankings in the valuable Google search results and ultimately drive qualified, warm/hot traffic to their site.
2. Combined Digital+Physical Presence Provides an Omnichannel Experience
While online shopping is now the norm for most consumers today, the in-store experience still plays a role in enhancing the overall shopping experience.
Brands and retailers can bring the online and offline worlds together by embracing tactics like using physical locations as showrooms, leveraging digital to offer more information about a brand’s story or products, or enabling services to buy online and pick up in stores.
When asked about channels for various purchase scenarios, consumers have no preference. Instead, they see retail as an omni-channel industry.
For instance, 70% are most likely to make an impulse purchase (i.e., an unplanned buying decision) in a store. This is likely due to the ease at which it’s possible for consumers to add last-minute items to their physical carts.
Consumers’ likelihood to shop in stores drops significantly when they set out to make an intentional purchase.
Just 37% of consumers are most likely to make an intentional purchase of a specific product in a store, while 51% are most likely to do so on a mobile device or desktop.
eCommerce gains a leg up here due to the ease at which consumers can make planned purchases digitally without leaving their homes.
When it comes to big-ticket items, such as furniture or electronics, consumers prefer to purchase these items in stores, but they would rather browse and research them on desktop and mobile devices.
Action Steps For Retailers:
- Many digital retailers have already formed strategic partnerships with traditional retailers. Some are innovating ways to co-locate the digital and physical experiences.
- For example, within the last year, Amazon partnered with Kohl’s to enable in-store returns, purchased Whole Foods to gain a leg up in the physical grocery industry and opened several brick and- mortar pop-up stores.
- As eCommerce continues to mature, consumers will not completely give up their in-store shopping habits altogether.
- Rather, they want brands and retailers to provide them with seamless, consistent experience across all channels – including stores — and enable purchases wherever they’re most comfortable.
- Tactics like in-store pickup, showrooming or unique digital experiences can help you converge your online and offline offerings.
- For example, a furniture company could enhance the process for purchases mostly made in a store by giving customers the ability to upload images of their homes online and test what a new couch might look like in their space.
- Alternatively, a retailer could use its brick-and-mortar locations as showrooms only, saving money in inventory and real estate while directing all purchases to an eCommerce site.
3. Social Media vs. Social Media Influencers
Social media provides retailers and brands with an unbeatable opportunity to meet their customers where they spend a lot of their time.
By ensuring a relevant and strong presence on social channels, brands and retailers have an opportunity to better understand their customers and drive more sales, in-store and online.
- More than half of consumers (55%) have made a purchase from a social media channel.
- More specifically, 40% of consumers have purchased via Facebook, 13% have made a purchase through Instagram and 12% have made Pinterest purchases.
So What About Using Social Media Influencers?
The data in the study shows that influencers do not provide the level of traffic that brands expect. Many influencers have fake followers and mislead brands to think they have a bigger reach than they do.
Investing in the capabilities and digital marketing tactics to create engaging shoppable moments on social sites should take priority over investing in influencers.
Having said that, while celebrity endorsements might not drive sales, they still can impact awareness and brand perception.
Action Steps For Retailers:
- Use celebrity endorsements (or micro-celebrities/micro-influencers) strategically to develop your brand reputation and increase product awareness rather than as an avenue for generating sales.
- Google, Amazon and user-generated content are revenue generating channels that smart retailers will work to enable transactions anywhere, at any time, on any device.
Integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) Into Digital Strategy
AI is raising customer expectations for the quality of the shopping experience.
In the next six months, consumers expect AI to lead to faster checkouts (42%), faster customer service responses (26%) and more personalized offerings (25%).
Still, it’s important to remember that AI doesn’t necessarily mean robots. In a more practical sense, AI can involve the use of machine learning to automate processes that traditionally required human interaction.
That could include personalized subscription services, guided selling or even something as simple as product recommendations based on “frequently bought together” data.
If you think AI technologies are right for your company, you may want to take an iterative approach to integration. Release small updates gradually over time, track whether the technology is playing a role in driving more sales, and proceed accordingly.
AI is not right for all businesses. It’s important to use data to determine whether it’s a fit before setting aside a significant portion of your budget and resources.
Implementing an experience-driven commerce strategy that takes omni-channel retail into account is more important than ever.
In the age of the digitally-empowered customer, retail businesses must deliver great digital experiences and continually revamp their marketing strategies to remain competitive and relevant.
Need help creating a comprehensive digital strategy for your business? Contact us today to have a quick chat about what we can do for you and your digital presence.