What do I mean by “start anywhere, end anywhere?” I mean that today’s consumers are using more methods of engagement than ever before in their path to purchase, and retail brands must be able to keep up. Better yet, you must understand customer behavior to the point where you not only can meet them where they are, but predict their next move.
BookingBug recently conducted research with 1,000 U.S. consumers to gain a deeper understanding of how they prefer to engage with brands. What we found was that the “new normal” for the modern customer journey has no singular starting or ending point — it’s fluid. Whether a consumer starts their journey online, via text or in-store, it’s all one journey, and brands must treat it as such.
So, where do we go from here? How can brands meet and exceed continuously rising and evolving consumer expectations? I've outlined below three key takeaways from our research that I believe will position retailers to better prepare and manage a holistic customer journey, resulting in loyal customer gains and increased return on investment along the way.
People Still Need People
Contrary to what the explosion of digital channels might lead you to believe, people still need people. The growth of “online” channels never meant that consumers no longer need to talk to human beings throughout the purchasing process or go in-store. They still want human expertise when it comes to making a final purchase decision. And while digital engagement is a must, it’s only a single thread leading to a much larger web of interaction and engagement touchpoints.
Our research found that 64 percent of respondents typically spend or invest more in products/services after an in-person appointment or face-to-face meeting. Furthermore, nearly 45 percent of respondents said that having the ability to speak with someone during their final decision to purchase was critical.
Therefore, despite the rise of “one-click shopping,” it’s clear that consumers still crave an omnichannel experience. In-person interactions are still a critical step and consumers still want to engage face-to-face. The most important question: Will you be ready when they call on you?
Use Appointments to Your Advantage
With unified channels in place, brands have the ability to hone in on the particular points in a consumer's journey where certain offerings, such as a face-to-face conversation, help proactively mitigate “the failure zone” — i.e., the breakdown point that often happens as consumers transition from digital to physical touchpoints along the path to purchase.
But don’t just take our word for it. Our research shows a multigenerational agreement between baby boomers (61 percent) and millennials (48 percent) that in-person engagement has a strong influence, especially when it comes to the complexity of a purchase or service decision.
By utilizing schedule interactions, like appointments, brands can better position themselves to deliver the human-to-human connectivity consumers want. And with added insights from data-driven analytics that lead to the appointment, brands will be better informed to identify the right resources at the right time, creating an empowered, educated workforce that understands customer preferences to deliver the best experience possible. This is essential for brands to rise up to the new bar that consumers have set.
Seamless Experiences Lead to Increased Trust
No matter where consumers choose to shop, brands must have holistic strategies in place to bridge “the failure zone” and unite the digital and physical worlds, creating a complete, frictionless journey for consumers every time they interact with a brand.
By unifying all channels and ensuring in-person interactions are as informed and positive as possible, brands will not only increase the level of trust between them and the consumer, they will drive sales in the process. In order to be successful, brands must be prepared to closely follow and manage today’s dynamic customer journey to establish a lasting connection that can start anywhere and end anywhere.
Glenn Shoosmith is CEO of BookingBug, an online scheduling and booking software provider.
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