Reaching the 21st Century Retail Customer
It's no secret that omnichannel shopping has taken off in recent years, due largely to the explosion of mobile devices. According to IDC, "the worldwide smartphone market grew 27.2 percent year-over-year in the second quarter of 2014." And this year, for the first time, mobile traffic has overtaken desktop traffic to e-commerce sites. This trend is spurring the growth of consumers who research and buy across multiple devices on a regular basis, and has helped create a new category of "super shoppers."
Inherent with the use of mobile devices is the rise of social media for communication, sharing and rating. It's become essential for retailers and brands to recognize the increasingly influential aspect of social media and how they must adapt their digital experiences and offerings for each platform. This article looks at some of the differentiating features of m-commerce and how brands can make the most of them.
Adopting a Rapid Response
Today's consumers have short attention spans, and, thanks to smartphones, unlimited access to information and social media updates at their fingertips. This means that brands need to adopt a new level of reactiveness in their content in response to consumers' interests and social media conversations in real time.
Savvy brands have the ability to leverage the latest technologies as well as insert themselves into conversations taking place via social media. This engagement also enables them to tie into the content available on their own websites. For a fashion retailer, for example, this could be an image of a celebrity wearing the newest line of clothing that then gets shared across channels and goes viral. The retailers that can immediately and seamlessly react to this type of opportunity will be able to reach consumers on a new level, which gives them a competitive edge.
For retailers, the higher the quality of a product image, the easier it is for a consumer to imagine what the product looks like in person. Product images should make shoppers feel like they're in-store, with the ability to stimulate, seduce and drive the imagination of consumers, enabling them to see all the product details. Consumers should be able to imagine holding, using and owning the product when they interact with digital product media.
The screens of today's smartphones and tablets offer high pixel density and incredible color reproduction. Some phones even offer comparable quality to glossy print — these screens are now reliable enough to present a higher quality experience for users. For retailers and brands, this means that they can now offer deeply engaging brand-led experiences with stunning, interactive imagery and video across mobile and tablet devices.
Furthermore, new screens are constantly coming onto the market, with different sizes and different resolutions. While these images can complement and unlock the latent value across traditional channels, the challenge now for brands is ensuring that the customer has a consistent perception of the brand, unrelated to the channel they're using.
Tingling the Senses
Part of the fun of the in-store experience is the ability to touch and feel products before making a purchase. This is taken for granted when shopping in-store, and the lack of physical interaction is one of the biggest (and obvious) drawbacks of shopping online. Replicating that personal experience online adds an additional aspect to customer interactions and ultimately helps create a satisfying experience. The availability of smart devices means brands can now use a range of sensory inputs alongside the visual (e.g., touch and sound). When an object moves or changes state, sounds can reinforce this the same way they do in-store.
Brands are slowly adopting the technology that allows them to replicate in-store experiences, such as understanding how a product moves and changes states or sounds. This level of production and immersive experience isn't yet commonplace, however, today's smart retailers realize the importance of raising the bar in their customer experience.
Keeping it Fun
Games are by far the largest market for mobile and tablet content, as well as the most engaging experience available on these platforms. E-commerce experiences on these devices can gain a lot from the interactive design, production value, focus on playfulness and satisfying experience of games. In digital marketing and e-commerce, some game-like interactions are already beginning to be used. For example, the processes of product discovery, recommendations, combination or configuration can all be made into playful journeys that take the interaction with the customer to the next level.
Digital marketers can learn from this approach to design engaging digital experiences. Progressive engagement, playful interactions, a high level of production value and a sharp focus on the enjoyment of the user are all things that will further this aim, driving engagement and ultimately sales.
The Customer Comes First
Whether a customer interacts with a brand in-store, online or via mobile, they expect the experience to be consistent across every channel. The unfortunate reality is that experiences across each channel still vary wildly, both in quality and function. This difference is jarring and can often push customers into choosing a platform that doesn't suit their needs well or doesn't benefit the brand or retailer.
A common example is a customer that would like to use a smartphone but finds the experience too confusing and just gives up on searching for an item. Regardless of channel, consumers shouldn't encounter challenges. If they do, it will increasingly hinder their satisfaction, thus impeding on sales. Consumers don't want to face obstacles; they want their experience to be seamless across interfaces. Brands, and especially retailers, need to start thinking about delivering content fast and seamlessly across channels in order to cater to this mentality.
With retailers and brands having more opportunities to engage with customers and prospects than ever before, the winners will be those that have adapted to this new omnichannel model. Ultimately, this means being able to create the most engaging experiences that satisfy customers and keep them returning for more, no matter what channel they happen to purchase in. Only by achieving this will retailers be able to cater to today's new breed of "super shoppers."
Rory Dennis is the chief marketing officer at Amplience, a SaaS-based platform that enables brands to produce digital campaign and product media.
Rory Dennis, Co-Founder & GM, North America, Amplience
Rory co-founded Amplience and is GM of Amplience in the United States, developing Amplience's presence in North America. Rory previously worked as Business Development Manager for O2 Telefonica's Interactive Media Team.