Understanding Customers

Lauren Freedman, SVP Digital Strategy/Chief Merchant, Astound Commerce
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Lauren Freedman, SVP Digital Strategy/Chief Merchant, Astound Commerce

The competitive landscape is challenging and knowing one’s customer may be more important than ever before. There has been a great deal of discussion on the value of a 360-degree view of the customer. While in theory, no one would argue with the merits of having this valuable information, delivering on this desire is no small feat.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the e-tailing group’s annual mystery shopping survey, now part of Astound Commerce Insights. These findings coupled with our research conducted in the past year shed light on the customer experience. I have identified 5 aspects of the experience that are essential to that holistic customer view to illustrate retail opportunities.

The next round of growth will emanate from retailers who invest in understanding the customer and can deliver the most relevant shopping experience.

Search and Navigation

The hunt for product is the universal language of shopping online. Knowing what the customer is searching for and how they navigate the site may provide the most important clues to getting them to make a purchase. This information informs what, when and where to present products.

  Knowing your customer across every channel and every device that is part of their ever-changing shopping behavior is the only way to deliver a 360-degree view of the shopper 

Data supports personalizing the experience from the home page to the cart, setting up triggers for abandoned carts and retargeting based on products added to one’s shopping cart. These are just the basics with bottom line implications for every retailer.

Content

With 38% of shopping purchases cross-channel, understanding what information shoppers have consumed in each channel is invaluable. If a shopper is one to read how-to guides, watch video and educate themselves in advance of making any purchase than the layout of the shopping experience should reflect such behavior patterns.

Mobile activities are important prior to visiting stores where 62 percent of shoppers indicate they are conducting research on their “always available” devices. Think about the implications if a retail associate knew that a shopper had looked at several refrigerators on their mobile phone before making a visit to the store. They would then be pre-screened and this associate could quickly direct them to the products of choice knowing that this shopper had done their homework in advance. The quality of the experience would undoubtedly be superior having this cross-channel customer view.

Buying Patterns

Retail has always been about presenting the right product at the right price. When shoppers were asked in the Astound Commerce 2016 Holiday Survey, what factors likely cause them to make a purchase from a particular retailer online, 79 percent indicated the right prices and 68 percent cited free shipping.

In years past, merchants presented their product on a seasonal basis, but the web has mostly rendered shopping seasonless. Retailers who once may have had sales on a semi-annual basis have accelerated their promotional cadence. Understanding shopper behavior across channels is once again critical as retailers attempt to optimize the prices they present. While some shoppers only shop on sale, others will pay full price when they covet a product or desire to be first to own a new technology. Additionally, they may have different patterns online where comparing prices is intrinsic to digital behavior yet more challenging in store. These alternatives clearly define behavior patterns that retailers must understand to optimize both pricing and performance.

Omnichannel

The shopper today often shops across multiple channels making it difficult for retailers to follow behavior patterns. They may begin by checking to see if inventory is available using the product locator now available on the majority of sites we shopped (63 percent of 78 retailers). Our own Astound Commerce 2016 Mobile Research indicates that 61 percent of shoppers check local product availability at least 3X a month. This information will be a major factor in deciding which physical store to visit. Additionally, the option to pick up that merchandise instore suggests that this shopper uses more than 1 channel to satisfy their needs. 64 percent of shoppers have completed a buy online pickup in store transaction in the past 3 months. These shifts in shopper behavior must be part of the 360-degree view of the shopper.

Shopping Cart

The cart is the common denominator for shoppers and having one’s cart saved across channels is optimal. Today, our mobile research evaluating 50 retailers indicates that 92 percent of retailers had shared carts. Second only to in store product location mapping is the desire to be notified by mobile phone that an item in your cart is available or in stock when you arrive at the store. These simple uses of technology can result in stronger conversion rates while saving shoppers time in the process. Such conveniences are essential as mobile means shoppers are in flux as they quickly move between channels and devices.

The 360-degree View Must be Definitive

Knowing your customer across every channel and every device that is part of their ever-changing shopping behavior is the only way to deliver a 360-degree view of the shopper. Ensuring that your organization is on board and willing to make the necessary investment to truly know your customer may be the harder call.

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