By Adam Forrest, Director of Product Marketing

A core theme throughout most of the news I read last week was around customer experience. Retailers know that as consumer expectations continue to evolve with today’s new retail reality, customer experience increasingly becomes critical to their success.

Here are some of the headlines that caught my eye.

1. A Lot Of Men Would Rather Do All Their Shopping Online

Summary: Men are driving nearly as much ecommerce spending in the U.S. as women, according to a new report from BI Intelligence. Data shows that men are more likely to make a purchase on a mobile device than women, and 44% reported they’d like to “ideally buy everything online,” compared to just 33% of women.

My thoughts: It might be a stereotype, but it’s historically rooted in data – women shop more than men. So it’s definitely interesting to hear that more men are opting to do their shopping online, especially through mobile devices. This presents a number of opportunities for retailers to expedite search capabilities and product finders that cater to their male customers, and also deliver a more streamlined checkout experience for mobile. Alternatively, there are new opportunities to better engage women with the in-store shopping experience, as well, especially as retailers bring digital into the store. I talked about the importance of demographic studies in one of my recent Top 5 posts; this is another example of how learning more about your customers can help you give them the experience they want.

2. 4 tech risks to watch for when extending your e-commerce biz to China

Summary: China’s leading e-commerce company, Alibaba, showed record one-day sales revenue of $5.75 billion on a Chinese shopping holiday. And 38% of China’s Internet users only access the Internet on a mobile device. Clearly there are a number of great opportunities for retailers considering expansion into China, but there are a number of significant differences that exist in the Chinese market that retailers must be prepared to accommodate, such as language, culture and infrastructure challenges.

My thoughts: China is a hot market, and expansion into China seems to be one of the hottest retail trends right now. But with every expansion project, there are challenges that must be accounted for, and not all of it is as straight forward as you think. Sure, we’re all aware of the “Great Firewall of China,” but truly localized behaviors, like preferred payment options and ensuring you can deliver a consistent and relevant mobile experience, can be easily overlooked without the right technology processes in place. That said, technology today has become mission critical; you can’t pursue new markets without technology playing a key role in the process. Retailers that do will find they often miss the mark, and spend too much time and money getting their infrastructure figured out.

3. A Pinterest tweak could give e-retailers an advantage

Summary: Pinterest released a coding tweak that presents consumers with a pop-up box to pin their desired item without ever leaving the retailer’s site. According to Internet Retailer’s Thad Rueter, “The move could impact a significant number of retailers, given that 85% of the merchants in the Internet Retailer 2014 Top 500 Guide are active on the social network, up from 78% a year earlier.”

My thoughts: Consumer experience has always been an important factor to retailers’ success, but it’s increasingly becoming the core of a company’s mission. And with social integrations continually on the rise, we have new ways to connect with our customers, learn about them, and deliver a better experience to them based specifically on their interests. Retailers should look for technologies that are open and agile, and include RESTful APIs (like Demandware’s Open Commerce APIs) to enable shopping experiences anywhere.  

4. 65% Of Shoppers Visit Stores After Viewing Mobile Ads

Summary: According to a report from mobile agency Fetch, 65% of mobile consumers say relevant mobile ads would inspire them to visit the store. In taking a deeper look at the data, 63% of respondents stated they’d be more likely to click on an ad with a coupon, and 45% said they’d click on an ad that is relevant to their current location. When done correctly, this has the potential to change the in-store shopping experience for consumers that leverage their mobile devices to search for more product information.

My thoughts: It’s no mystery that the evolution of technology is driving the evolution of the store and, ultimately, the consumer experience and broader shopping journey. Our own Rob Garf highlighted three of the key areas where physical stores need to change in order to better attract today’s consumer in his blog post on “reinventing the box.” The data from this report supports Rob’s thoughts around function, format and technology since many retailers are trying to bridge the physical-digital gap and deliver an engaging shopping experience for consumers in their stores. But what we all still need to see is successful execution. Mobile ads need to be delivered to the right users at the right time with the right information, otherwise they’ll just be considered a nuisance

5. Click and Collect Connects with UK Commuters

Summary: Click and collect has been increasing in popularity, so much so that retailers are working on ways to make pickup even easier and more convenient, especially in the UK where this market is particularly advanced.

My thoughts: Click and collect is a phenomenon that will forever change the organizational structure of retailers. Sure, buying online and picking up in a store is a great option, but what’s happening behind the scenes includes major changes around inventory allocation, revenue allocation and organizational change. This requires a solution that allows retailers to have real-time insight into their inventory, and move that inventory around quickly and efficiently to increase sales per square foot. This will have an impact on how orders are recorded and ultimately what physical location gets credit for the sale. It also comes back to customer service; you have to be sure you’re getting your customers the products they want quickly and in a way that is most convenient for them.