Retailers: What happens online doesn’t stay online — navigating today’s customer journeys


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The days of being able to easily understand the path your customers take, from start to purchase, is over. Today, consumers have greater choices and their shopping journey has many routes that include smartphones, websites, and physical stores.
A transformative shifting is happening with customers: the point being, what happens in one part of that journey can impact the final sale, and understanding which parts to improve or change can make a difference a difference between being on the winning or losing side of the retail meltdown. An issue described very succinctly in an article by the economics reporter at The Atlantic earlier this year.

A transformative shifting is happening with customers: the point being, what happens in one part of that journey can impact the final sale, and understanding which parts to improve or change will be the difference between winning and losing for most retail brands. So first, let’s outline some of the emerging consumer trends that are worth focusing on.

BOPIS, Fulfillment, & Webrooming/Same-Day
There are a few emerging journeys that retailers are adapting their strategies to. Perhaps the most buzzworthy is BOPIS, or Buy Online, Pickup In-Store. In the last few years, this has increased in popularity among consumers. Some retailers, such as Home Depot, are nailing this strategy by integrating the in-store and digital experiences and measuring the customer journey.

Fulfillment – or customers that visit a store to make a purchase, but have the item(s) delivered to their home – is also gaining in popularity, and it’s likely to become more pronounced across the retail industry.

And finally, there’s the rise in same-day delivery for online purchases, a journey that could always begin on a mobile device while inside a brick-and-mortar store, as retailers take a more serious view of their showrooming strategy (thus making it a version of “webrooming”). The names for these emerging journeys are likely to change and be replaced by more buzzworthy versions, but you get the gist.

But as more companies adopt a “Retail Mullet” strategy, gaining greater insight about the customer’s expectations based on journey mapping data can help inform better business decisions across the board in areas that may affect everything from sales associates to distribution.

Preparing for the next generation of consumers: Gen Z

With every new generation of consumers comes changes in shopping behavior. And retailers need to be ready to accommodate the next generation, otherwise known as Generation Z.

By 2020, Gen-Z will account for an estimated $1.4 trillion in spending or 30% of all retail sales, according to research by Accenture. And research reveals the that 67% of Gen-Z favor shopping in-store, rarely use desktop computers, and often purchase via mobile device after doing research at a brick-and-mortar shop. The point is, the next wave of consumers will have a slightly different customer journey that utilizes multiple touchpoints.

It’s difficult to understand how to convert shoppers in any generation from ‘just looking’ to paying customers when multiple touchpoints are involved. And more specifically, it’s difficult if you don’t know the digital contribution each touchpoint — or portion of the journey — has on getting a customer to make a purchase.

Contribution is the new conversion
Do you know how mobile is affecting in-store sales? Are you prioritizing improvements to the mobile experience that will move the needle forward? If you can’t definitively answer these questions, then you need a new compass, which brings me to my final point.

Contribution should be your new conversion metric. Looking at each touchpoint individually just isn’t very helpful, but studying and measuring each channel for contribution can unlock valuable insights.

For example, what did people who visited a retailer’s mobile channel without making a purchase do next? According research we did last year, 42% said they visited the same retailer’s website and 24% visited a brick-and-mortar store. But what about the potential customer, the 36%, that ended their journey right then and there? Learning exactly why those potential customers visited the mobile channel without purchasing – by measuring the experience – would help retailers understand what they sought to accomplish with the visit. Finding the ways to improve mobile experience, and seeing how it contributes to an overall sale, would help drive revenue.

Because when it’s all said and done, you cannot possibly navigate success with a faulty compass. Thus, measuring contribution can guide your decisions and help close the gap on those non-purchasers.

Eric Feinberg
Eric Feinberg heads marketing strategy for customer experience analytics company ForeSee. He is also a board member of the Digital Analytics Association (DAA) and an adjunct professor of mobile marketing at the University of California, Irvine Extension.


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