- It can be tempting to react to technology trends in order to keep up with competitors, but it is more important to evaluate a technology’s utility and how it aligns with your customers’ needs.
- Customer feedback will always be your biggest opportunity to improve. Consider how you can connect with consumers digitally to further enhance their shopping experience.
- Do not be afraid to experiment with digital personalization experiences or progressive profiling-type programs to steadily build customer profiles with time.
by Meghan Goetz
No matter the retail category, customers’ expectations for seamless experiences is greater than ever. According to Harvard Business Review, prior to COVID, the majority of retail shoppers (73%) were utilizing a multitude of digital and physical retail touchpoints during their shopping journey. These omnichannel customers were already using several smart devices to compare prices online, along with in-store information kiosks to influence their purchasing decisions.
Fast forward to 2022, and we find the pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital shopping by roughly five years, as estimated in IBM’s U.S. Retail Index. This is a staggering figure, but retailers can rise to the digital challenge with the right web partner, innovative ecommerce solutions, and customer engagement strategies. To do so, business owners should start by asking themselves and their web teams the following questions:
What is the customer experience standard for your vertical?
The technology you use needs to be compatible with your product and your customers’ purchasing behaviors. Augmented reality may be useful for clothing retailers looking to create a digital dressing room experience, but it would not necessarily be appropriate for grocery stores testing new product SKUs. It can be tempting to react to technology trends in order to keep up with competitors, but it is more important to evaluate a technology’s utility and how it aligns with your customers’ needs.
Ensuring that you are eliminating barriers to entry for shoppers and simplifying the ecommerce process is paramount. To facilitate a positive customer experience (CX) online, retailers should employ a digital experience platform (DXP) that integrates the entire organization. The DXP can unify content creation, sales data, CRM functionality, marketing campaigns, and all customer communication touchpoints. It is recommended that your web team has working knowledge, and ideally deep experience, in your retail vertical. The right team will be able to simplify the user experience, optimize navigation, and anticipate customer needs.
Are you using your data intentionally?
There is definitely such a thing as too much data, and the data you have needs to be actionable. Personalization is now the minimal viable product for your retail website. On-demand services, direct-to-consumer subscriptions, and loyalty programs were already converging to create a new CX standard before COVID, but the pandemic accelerated these shopping behaviors and trends exponentially. Retailers need to use data to personalize the CX they deliver and to create shortcuts for their customers to get what they need.
Analyzing the data from ecommerce extensions like loyalty programs, reward tiers, or membership profiles is a great place to begin understanding what attracts your best customers and developing new customer acquisition strategies. The goal is to assess the consumers’ shopping patterns and identify trends. The right data points will inform a retailer’s message targeting, communication frequency, and show which channels are getting the most return on investment. For example, using data to understand which products are frequently bought together can inform promotions or targeted coupons.
Does your website cultivate stronger relationships?
Customer feedback will always be your biggest opportunity to improve. Consider how you can connect with consumers digitally to further enhance their shopping experience. Customer engagement functions like surveys, promotions, or product review pages allow for you to hear from shoppers in real-time. For clothing retailers, this might mean soliciting customer feedback regarding size ranges, manufacturing practices, or must-have trends.
By enlisting your customers in the process of bettering your products, you are demonstrating a commitment to meeting their needs. This is just one example of how digital solutions can improve the shopping experience and create a foundation for loyalty. Do not be afraid to experiment with digital personalization experiences or progressive profiling-type programs to steadily build customer profiles with time.
Making the shift
The brands that survive, and even thrive, through this retail shift will be diligent with their data and consistently optimizing the customers’ digital experience. As in-store foot traffic steadily increases post-COVID, indie retailers must consider how the brick-and-mortar experience can be enhanced digitally, and vice versa.
Ecommerce is now a necessity for retailers of all sizes, but the brick-and-mortar experience will remain crucial for categories like beauty, automotive, clothing, and cosmetics. Innovation and intuitive design will be the hallmark qualities consumers continue to expect from the businesses they shop from, whether it is enhancing a brick-and-mortar experience or creating a more seamless digital one on a website.
Meghan Goetz is the Director of Marketing for Crowd Favorite. The company provides world-class, enterprise-grade digital strategy, elite Open Source web development and comprehensive support services, empowering organizations to reach their full digital potential. For more information, please visit crowdfavorite.com.