Building a seamless global customer experience thanks to digital technology

Even though 99% of purchases world-wide are still made “physically”, i.e. in traditional stores, not only is digital technology inescapable, as the proportion of on-line sales continues to grow, but it has an impact on dynamics… off-line. Therefore, improving the experience of digital technology using digital technology for customers, whether they are on the Internet or in the street, is proving to be a major challenge for tomorrow’s retailers. Objectives: to increase sales, the average basket and loyalty.

How does the online customer journey in a broad, global and seamless sense, influence the act of purchase both on-line and in store?
How can the physical store become almost a stage within the customer journey which has in itself become increasingly global, digital or physical, mobile, cross-channel, etc.?

Here are the 7 principles to be applied to the web and within its framework…

One of the biggest lessons to be learned from the Internet and e-commerce over the past 20 years of digital experience is that it is now necessary to go back to basics!

After an initial surge where we were led to believe that business was going fully digital at the start of the 21st century, and after a second wave which drove on-line retailers to open “permanent” sustainable or ephemeral stores, now the time has come to prioritize the customer’s journey and experience.

Digital technology is now involved at all stages – throughout the experience and in the act of making on-line purchases of course, but also when the consumer is in store, through a range of technologies and applications which enable choices and decisions to be made.

The customer’s experience becomes global, both in terms of the physical store as the digital world. The digital experience is no longer the preserve of an e-commerce website; it must also be integrated into the stores. And ultimately, the physical store becomes almost a form of a journey which itself is increasingly global, digital or physical, mobile, cross-channel, etc.

“We are witnessing the emergence of a new consumer model which is pushing companies to reinvent the in-store customer experience, by using digital technology in particular.”

Reinventing the in-store customer experience

We are fully aware that the quality of the experience offered to customers has a direct influence on the purchases made… by up to 50%, according to some studies. Moreover, numerous studies show that digital technology itself is becoming increasingly more important for consumers: 75% of consumers say that they are influenced by the brand’s digital policy. And other figures speak for themselves: 84% of consumers have used the Internet before or during an in-store purchase; 22% of those that had a seamless digital experience spent more than planned, and finally consumers have a conversion rate above 40 %.

All markets and business sectors are impacted by the phenomenon. The Internet helps consumers throughout the entire shopping experience. Along each step of the process, the customer wants to stay connected. We are therefore witnessing the emergence of a new consumer model which is pushing companies to review their business model and reinvent the in-store customer experience, by using digital technology in particular.

In concrete terms, the digital strategy must be designed around the following 7 principles, such as
those presented by Sopra Steria Consulting at the NRF Big Retail Show in New York, and which are illustrated by this graphic.

The 7 principles to follow in order to digitize stores

  1. Define an open-minded digital strategy

The digital strategy of a brand must be considered very specifically. So back to basics… we cannot, for example, sell a hi-fi product like coffee. This strategy will be completely different from one sector to another. Carefully consider the specific characteristics of the business sector of the company. The influence of digital technology will be greatest in certain domains, and notably in the electronics sector (58%). In fact, in this sector, the services offered by digital technology are deemed more relevant (payment option, geolocated offers). Conversely, in the consumer goods sector, digital technology is deemed to have less of an impact by the consumer, as there is no direct link and there are fewer comparisons such as price comparison websites.

  1. Provide a seamless digital experience

The customer who goes into a store in person must, for example, be able to receive personalised messages on his or her device (smartphone, tablet); messages which meet their needs whilst directing the customer to the type of product which could suit them. In this way, this video game store decided to “push” demo videos and practical information about functionalities etc., on the customer’s smartphone…whilst the retailer receives the customer’s purchase history and his or her preferences -as much information as possible to enable the retailer to better target the advice to be given. A mobile application must first be downloaded in order to be recognised. The subject concerns operational marketing and related content.

  1. Give identical information everywhere

The customer must be able to access identical product information (price, stock availability, etc.) regardless of the device used in the digital experience. This essentially involves ensuring that prices and stock availability are aligned, so that the customer has consistent, uniform and dynamic information. For example, it takes on average 43,000 minutes to uniformly update prices across all devices… i.e. 30 days! The challenge concerns the company’s IS.

  1. Offer a customer experience which is as clear as possible

This is in order to increase the chances of transforming the act of purchase. One sports giant has therefore made touch screens available to its customers which are used to display all sorts of images (products, sports, etc.). This allows the customer to really experience the product and to view the entire collection.

  1. Manage information aimed at the consumer

Manage information, send targeted information likely to interest consumers without overwhelming them, remain relevant. To do this, one brand has decided to implement a very targeted digital strategy. It engages consumers who perform their research on-line by sending them tailored content: the closest store, future promotions, appointment scheduling… Thanks to this approach, sales notably increased three-fold for active customers, four-fold for existing customers and were 5.5 times higher for new customers.

  1. Perform in-depth studies of purchasing behaviour

It is important not to focus on the conversion rate at each stage of the customer experience nor on the final act of purchase. Analysing the customer journey allows buying habits and preferences to be understood. The store is then able to better adapt its product offer and its communication approach. One online auction site, for example, is installing mirrors in its physical stores which transform into touch screens simply by pressing them. The customer can therefore visualise the various looks and choose the outfit he or she would like to try on. This is a real asset for the brand which, thanks to this system, is now aware of the clothing items that have been tried on by its customers, even when they are not bought. In short, focus less on pure conversion and more on the average basket and on customer experience which will enable the overall conversion rate to increase.

  1. Ensure and manage presence on social networks

In fact, in the space of just a few years, social networks have become sales channels – another shop in a sense. And they strongly influence the act of purchase: 74% of purchasers abandon a purchase due to negative opinions on social networks. There are applications which enable retailers to post their products on social networks (Facebook in particular), so that Internet users can buy them by adding a simple comment.

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Grégory Wintrebert

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