Retail Strategies for Optimizing the Path to Purchase in the Connected World
With Amazon.com recording its strongest Prime Day ever in 2019, the now two-day annual midsummer event is a serious rival to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Amid major disruption and rampant uncertainty about the future of the in-store buying experience, a new survey of 1,500 U.S. consumers uncovers fresh insights into how retailers can optimize the path to purchase for shoppers in today’s connected world.
DMI’s survey found Amazon winning new customers during its Prime Day event on price, service, convenience and content (e.g., customer reviews, Q&As, and product recommendations). By scoring high in these areas consistently, Amazon has trained consumers to expect such high marks from all other retailers. Here are survey respondents specific reasons for shopping with Amazon:
- Free shipping (31 percent)
- Rapid delivery (19 percent)
- Familiar purchase experience (14 percent)
- Customer service (11 percent)
In examining overall shopper motivations and behaviors, DMI outlines the following four steps in the consumer journey: awareness, browsing, purchase, and support.
With regard to the first step, product awareness, in asking respondents to identify where they learned about the items that piqued their curiosity, nearly 50 percent cited Amazon. This underscores the fact that the e-commerce leader isn’t just a place to buy products; it's increasingly a cornerstone of product awareness and should be included in search optimization strategy.
In step two, browsing, 42 percent of respondents report that mobile devices are now the most used, topping in-store visits (30 percent). Consumers leverage mobile devices in every phase of their shopping journey, from search to price optimization. A whopping 58 percent have used their smartphones at brick-and-mortar stores in the past month to either find or learn about products, or to actually purchase items.
Importantly, regarding step three, the purchasing phase, 30 percent of respondents said customer reviews helped them feel comfortable enough to make a purchase. Similarly, 29 percent were influenced by product details, and 19 percent by price comparisons. Though it’s easy to assume discount retail giants like Amazon, Target and Walmart have made price the prime motivator for attracting today’s shoppers, our findings show the reality is actually more nuanced. For example, survey respondents put an overwhelming premium on convenience for both impulse and researched purchases.
Last but not least, regarding customer support, 76 percent of respondents said that in-store visits still deliver the most satisfying means of facilitating effective communication with brands, besting email (59 percent) and phone calls (56 percent). Social media (27 percent), texting (26 percent) and smart speakers (20 percent) such as Amazon Echo or Google Home rounded out the bottom three. Retailers need to get customer support right or shoppers will lose brand trust and not come back. Well-optimized support teams can expertly resolve customer frustrations.
Looking ahead to the future of retail, Amazon’s status as an e-commerce behemoth will continue to elevate the importance of service, selection and content for consumers, training them to expect a certain level of excellence and obligating all retailers to follow suit.
Today’s retailers need to ask themselves the following questions: Are we deploying advanced analytics and data science for precision-targeted marketing? Are we leveraging data to develop a comprehensive understanding of our customers? Are we putting artificial intelligence (AI) to work in streamlining customer service and optimizing customers’ in-store experiences? Such strategies are now mandatory to defend against Amazon. Right now the death of in-store retail is a myth. However, Amazon is quickly chipping away at that myth.
Mike Deittrick is the senior vice president of digital strategy and chief digital officer for DMI, a global leader in mobility solutions and digital transformation. Elisabeth Bradley is vice president of business development at DMI.