By Adam Forrest, Director of Product Marketing

In my last Top 5 post, the majority of articles addressed the importance of the customer experience. This time, we go a bit deeper, taking a look at the customers’ digital experience.

Here are some of the headlines that caught my eye to help inspire some new thoughts for you this week.

1. Major E-Commerce Brands Are Suddenly Opening Brick-And-Mortar Stores

Summary: Despite statements that brick-and-mortar stores are seeing declines in revenue, an increasing number of online-only retailers are starting to open stores. Just some of these Internet brands opening physical stores include Warby Parker, Trunk Club and Bonobos. So why is this happening? Brick-and-mortar is different, not dead.

My thoughts: There are two major reasons why having physical store locations are important to consumers. One, consumers still have an inherent need to touch and try products before they make a purchase, so having a location to interact with products is critical to that. Two, consumers want instant gratification when they make a purchase; they want to physically have the goods in possession as they walk away. For retailers, physical store locations solve those two consumer demands, and they also help solve for the broader distribution and fulfillment of goods to help online orders reach their consumers faster. As Writer Steven Dennis points out in this article, brick and mortar experiences are just different today. Retailers that embrace showrooming, that explore new ways to more deeply engage their customers by bringing digital into the store – these are the retailers that will ultimately succeed. Successful retailers must have a different mindset today about what the purpose of the physical store really is.

 

2. Beacons and augmented reality: Retail’s future

Summary: The shopping mall, as it exists today, will be a “historical anachronism” unless it changes to meet the needs of today’s consumer, according to Rick Caruso, CEO of Caruso Affiliated, one of the U.S’s biggest developers of retail complexes. And the answer may be tech innovation. The adoption of Beacons, among other tech solutions, could be the way to attract customers back to the physical store.

My thoughts: There has been a dramatic rise in the popularity (talk, not action) of Beacons this year. Yet this type of messaging/tracking/loyalty technology has been around for a while, primarily in the form of Shopkick. For retailers to truly reap the benefits of this technology, the key will be to figure out how to best use this type of messaging with their consumers. Since smartphones are very personal devices, there is the risk of intrusion when you start messaging someone directly; unlike email, these direct messages to your device disrupt normal activity. If you are going to interrupt your consumer, you must ensure that you have something good to say or offer, something that will be worth the interruption.

 

3. 4 Ecom Brands Bridging the Gap Between Digital and In-Store Experiences

Summary: According to Zendesk, 67% of online shoppers admit to having recently made a purchase that involved multiple channels. And according to Deloitte, the “mobile influence factor” (or effect of smartphones on in-store sales) on retail purchases will increase to $689 billion (or 19% of total store sales) by 2016.

My thoughts: Omni-channel has been an industry buzzword for a while, yet there still is a major gap in solving it. And Beacons (as discussed above) is another topic generating a lot of buzz. However, instead of getting attracted (or distracted) by the latest execution trends, retailers need to double down on their knowledge around their consumers’ purchasing behaviors and make decisions based on those key findings. One of Demandware’s retail clients spent time understanding the purchase behavior of their customers throughout the day across devices. Out of this research, they found that purchase behavior was determined more by the time of day and not the device that their customer was using. Mornings and evenings (commuting time) was spent researching products, while other times of the day were more focused on making a purchase. This retailer then began to change the shopping experience based on the time of day to make it more relevant. Of course, the customer experience must also be engaging and relevant, or the retailer’s efforts will be ignored.

 

4. 39pc of leading retail mobile sites lose sales because of redirects

Summary: Despite all of the talk about responsive web design and adaptive design, there are still a number of retailers that leverage unique m-dot sites – yet data shows that m-dot sites redirect users an average 3.03 times before landing on the right site. This is a costly misstep; research shows that a one-second delay in site response time can reduce conversions by 7%.

My thoughts: Nearly every consumer has a smartphone today. According to Strategy Analytics’ “Connected CE Devices Market Forecast: Global 2009-2018,” global households own an average of 2.8 connected CE (consumer electronic) devices, and the US has the highest with 7.7 devices. Needless to say, not delivering a strong and consistent experience across all of these devices could significantly hurt a retailer’s ability to sell products to customers. The seamless customer experience on a responsive site enables consumers to pick up where they left off on other devices. Not only does this enhance the customer shopping experience, but it also allows retailers to gain efficiency in managing responsive experiences, letting them focus on making those experiences even more personal.

 

5. 3 Surprising Online Shopper Preferences

Summary: comScore and UPS recently released the findings of the third annual UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper Study, showing that consumers have high expectations for their online shopping experience. Additional data also points to challenges with mobile commerce, the role of the physical store and, in a growing trend, free shipping continuing to drive purchase decisions – 58% of respondents reported they added items to their shopping carts to qualify for free shipping, and 83% said they’d wait an additional two days for delivery if it was free.

My thoughts: Defining the “typical” consumer is tricky. There are so many variables that motivate any consumer to make a purchase that it can be hard to please everyone. So pay special attention to what your customers want and focus your time on meeting those needs. If your customers prefer to make purchases on-the-go, invest in your mobile shopping experience. If your customers want free shipping, be transparent about what your free shipping threshold looks like and help them make more informed decisions. The insights from this study are particularly timely, as well, since retailers have time to make necessary tweaks to ensure they’re delivering the best quality shopping experience possible for this year’s holiday shopping season.