By Adam Forrest, Director of Product Marketing

Items in the news this week all point to a similar trend: the role of digital in the consumer shopping experience.

Here are some of the top items I read to help inspire new thoughts for you this week.

1. 83% Of Shoppers Are Satisfied With Their Online Shopping Experiences

Summary: The latest UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper Study, administered by comScore, shows that 83% of shoppers are satisfied with their online shopping experiences, and 63% report they’re happy with their in-store shopping experiences. However, despite consumers stating they’re generally happier with their online shopping experiences, the online return volume between 2013 and 2014 has increased; 62% of respondents reported returning or exchanging an item they purchased online.

My thoughts: Online shopping experiences have come a long way, and we’ll see even more change in the coming years as retailers work to include new conveniences for shoppers, such as access to in-store inventory, ability to pick-up items purchased online from a nearby store, and easier return policies to return an item purchased online to a store. But even though this study points to the fact that consumers are satisfied with their online shopping experiences, retailers must remember that the online experience is more than just a shopping funnel – these digital experiences can help drive more purchases in the store, as well. Consumers today often don’t trust the information they get from store associates, so they turn to digital channels to enhance their knowledge before they make a purchase. And since consumers are increasingly spending more time on these digital channels, retailers need to ensure the information they’re looking for is readily available, like product content and customer reviews.


2. It’s Not Just Omnichannel, It’s Omnibrand.

Summary: Customers should be the primary business strategy for any brand. In this article, David Williams, author of “Connected CRM: Implementing a Data-Driven, Customer-Centric Business Strategy,” and CEO at CRM agency Merkle Inc., offers his thoughts on why organizations need to think consumer segments first, then explore appropriate channels to engage with these groups.

My thoughts: Everyone talks about omni-channel as a means to engage customers properly across every touch point, but I think we sometimes forget that the customer is the one we should be focused on, not the channel. David Williams put it perfectly, “It’s about finding that group of people that love your brand and figuring out how to engage them properly.” And the best way to engage these customers is to listen to them – as I alluded to above, retailers need to understand their customers’ buying journey, and what they want to achieve through each of these channels. Multiple channel options doesn’t make an omni-channel experience; it’s about streamlining the entire brand experience across every interaction point, rather than making each channel its own shopping path.


3. Google, Barnes & Noble team up to take on Amazon

Summary: As of August 7, consumers can go into any Barnes & Noble in Manhattan, San Francisco and West Los Angeles and have the store item of their choice delivered on the same day through Google Shopping Express. Not only does this move help Barnes & Noble connect its physical stores with online retailing, but it also allows Google to beef up its same-day delivery service.

My thoughts: It all comes down to convenience – ensuring the customer gets what they want, when they want it. The UPS study in the first article of this post highlights convenience and free shipping as key factors for consumers that choose to shop online. And inventory management, along with creating effective shipping solutions, will help retailers deliver a better omni-channel experience, one that really brings together the physical and digital stores. Amazon’s big advantage is its fulfillment channels and ability to get a broad selection of products to customers in 2 days (through its Prime membership). If other retailers leverage in-store inventory to fulfill customer orders, they’ll find they can significantly enhance their ability to get products to customers faster. As I mentioned in a previous Top 5 post, retailers need a solution that gives them real-time insight into their inventory, and gives them the ability to move that inventory quickly and efficiently to increase sales per square foot.


4. New Balance Turns Brick-and-Mortar Stores Into Online Video Hubs

Summary: New Balance launched mini red carpet events in 50 specialty running stores that offer unique video experiences around the availability of the new 880v4 shoe. The goal of these events is to drive more foot traffic into these specific stores since the 880v4 is only available in these locations.

My thoughts: This highly targeted promotional campaign is a great example of the opportunities digital enablement presents for branded manufacturers that often don’t have control over their brand within retail stores. New Balance is creating unique ways to promote their own digital content within stores to engage with a targeted group of people that are most receptive to this type of branded information. And this promotion touches on the opportunities that exist when bringing digital into the store, since New Balance can leverage the in-store expertise from specialty store associates to help customers better understand the product.


5. IKEA’s New App Creates Omni-Channel Shopping Experience

Summary: With IKEA’s new mobile app, customers can take advantage of omni-channel functionalities by saving favorite items as a shopping list that can be later used online or in a store. Shopping lists can be compiled from multiple other catalogs, as well, and all content can be easily shared through a “discover more” functionality.

My thoughts: Everyone is overwhelmed when they get to IKEA – if you’ve ever been there, you can relate. Even with the little arrows on the floor, you’re not entirely sure where to go and you will inevitably walk right by the specific item you were looking for, leaving you with one option: just get your meatballs and go home. But with the new mobile app, IKEA can help its customers find the products they’re looking for, get store maps on their phones, and even scan in barcodes to find the item in the warehouse later. The mobile app is a great example of a retailer looking to digital channels to support the store shopping experience. The next step with an app like this is to ensure you can save the sale if an item is out of stock. Once again coming back to convenience for the customer, retailers should explore options like offering suggestions for alternative products in the store or a “buy in store and ship to home” capability from check-out.