The evolution of technology within the retail and e-commerce space is shaping how consumers behave and interact with brands and savvy, smart retailers know that understanding shoppers’ behavior is key for success. These retailers realize they can utilize technology to capitalize on consumer needs and customize offerings to help significantly increase their bottom lines.
Here’s how companies are using technology to provide added value to consumers.
Improved Customer Service
It is no secret that customer service is key in sustaining business growth – especially when you consider the fact that according to a CEI Survey, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience.
Retailers such as Lowe’s and Zappos know this as well as anyone and have been internationally recognized for their outstanding customer service, excelling in areas such as enhanced in-store experience and free, effortless returns. Technological advancements in customer service, such as improved use of digital channels, are leading to heightened consumer expectations and higher standards for retailers. These retailers and others like them know that when they focus on the happiness and well-being of their customers, it is reflected in profits.
Retailers are streamlining the digital path to purchase, providing convenient services such as one-click ordering, secure billing information storage, and direct purchasing from alternative retail channels, such as print circulars. By eliminating obstacles at the point of purchase, companies like Amazon and Pounce are catering to the modern user-experience and directly impacting ROI through higher checkout completion rates.
Avital Yachin, CEO of Pounce believes the checkout is the most important part of the interaction with customers. “It’s the point where customers make the final decision to move forward with making a purchase,” he said. “Essentially, this is just a ‘technical’ step of transferring payment from the customer to the merchant, and inform the merchant as of where to ship the order that’s been placed. Any failure to complete the process will cause in a cancellation of the sale.
Real-Life Shopping Experience
Improvements to e-commerce websites and services will be a primary growth factor behind the US online retail market’s massive $370 billion projection for 2017, according to Forrester. Enhancements such as rotating, interactive product displays and dynamic personalization are enabling retailers to deliver an online experience more aligned with consumer preferences. Companies such as RotaryView and RichRelevance are utilizing technology to create an online experience similar to what consumers encounter in-store. The convenience of online shopping paired with in-store personalization provides customers with the best possible experience.
For RotaryView CEO Gev Rotem, the key factor for retailers is to make the online shopping experience as real as possible. “Whether it’s personalizing the site appearance for each specific user, enhancing product views, or highlighting key product offerings – as vibrant SALE signs do in-store, the goal is to make the online shopping process as easy and intuitive as possible,” he said. ” A vital factor that sometimes is overlooked is the way products are presented. By offering consumers a more engaging shopping experience, retailers will increase conversion rates and reduce product returns due to confident purchasing. The equation is simple: show more, sell more.
Value- Added Services
When companies offer value- added services, they are more likely to cultivate strong customer loyalty providing a competitive advantage. By utilizing modern technology, retailers are now offering value-added services to transform shopping into a comprehensive, enjoyable experience. IKEA Catalog, utilizes its mobile app to provide added services with an augmented reality feature to give consumers a virtual preview of furniture in a room, allowing for a digital test-run of brand-name products.
Let’s Hear From the Retailers Themselves
Those who know me know I am always one prone to dig a little deeper, to get more information and knowledge from a given source and this is no different.
To see just how they utilize technology from a customer standpoint I spoke with:
- Tom Lamb, CMO of Lowe’s
- Darrin Shamo, Director of Direct and Online marketing at Zappos.com, and
- Claudia Willvonseder, Global Marketing Manager, IKEA Global Retail Services
- In addition to posing a question about the use of technology and service, I also wanted to pick their brains on a few other relevant topics to this discussion: marketing integration between online/offline and relationship marketing.
Steve Olenski: How does your company use technology as a means to engage and relate to its consumers?
Tom Lamb: Technology benefits customer service interactions by providing consumers information when and where they want it and by supporting our associates as they work to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Lowe’s uses technology at all consumer touch points, including our stores, which are all equipped with WiFi, as well as online to simplify the shopping experience and engage with consumers from the day they first think about a project until its completion.
Darrin Shamo: Like many others in the industry, we’re on a continual quest to create a 1 to 1 connection with our customers. Technical developments such as personalized retargeting, triggered communication, SMS/push and master data management are all arrows in our quiver. While each of these efforts help us to reach our customers in a relevant and personalized way, we still feel that the most effective form of interaction is person to person connections. Our most effective mediums will always be those that help us connect with our customers on a personal level and leave them feeling heard, productive and ultimately wow’d.
Claudia Willvonseder: Overall when it comes to the area of Marketing IKEA is more of a low tech company. Technology for us is used if it is a good enabler to engage with the many people, stimulate their interest in home furnishing or facilitate the many people to plan and create their cosy and functional home with IKEA home furnishing solutions. In the new IKEA catalogue for instance you can find 100 products which you can through augmented reality technique place in your room and see how it fits and would look like. You can scan the back page of the IKEA catalogue to see what is new at IKEA all of over the year. By this we use the technology to create consumer value.
Olenski: How does your company integrate or orchestrate its offline marketing with its online?
Lamb: We are committed to reaching customers on their terms– when and where they want to engage with us. We optimize the roles of all the different online and offline channels to communicate an integrated message to the consumer. Each channel plays a different role within the integrated campaign – reach, awareness, inspiration, product and price, just to name a few.
For example, during the fall season, we highlighted bath refreshes in several different ways across multiple channels, online and offline. We used TV (offline) to tap into a relevant consumer mindset and create urgency by messaging that guests are coming, and Lowe’s can help you update your bath by Thanksgiving. On Lowes.com (online), we delivered inspiring content with curated product lists and photography. Through tabs (offline), we demonstrated selection and price while using search (online) to be relevant to those consumers looking for additional information.
Shamo: Integration can take many different forms including style guides, coordinated testing, balancing demand generation with demand capture, etc. When it comes to coordinated messaging across all marketing channels we tend to think in terms of tone and theme. When visitors come to our offices for a tour they are greeted by departments with chants, bells or vuvuzelas.:-) Each department is free to communicate to our guests in the way they choose but all should evoke the same disruptive tone and theme. We take the same approach to our outward communication.
Willvonseder: Like the consumers we in IKEA Marketing do not think so much about offline and online marketing. Is an original TV ad which you watch on your tablet on YouTube while sitting in a café an offline media content or it is online? You can hardly say. Most of our marketing communication works with all paid, owned and earned media and we use our owned media IKEA.com as a channel for engaging the many people into the IKEA brand and company and into our home furnishing offer. Then with 210 million catalogues which are distributed every year you can see our believe that the offline world and media are still very much alive and loved by the many people who like to have a cozy afternoon on the sofa and start dreaming about a home makeover while reading and flipping through the IKEA catalogue.
Olenski: What’ the most important thing a brand can do when it comes to relationship marketing?
Lamb: Good relationship marketing meets the consumer on their terms by getting to the point where a company can anticipate their needs. There is an opportunity to lead the customer to a solution. What we are working toward is pairing the data a customer provides us with information we know about where they live, such as weather, to provide relevant and helpful information to consumers at the time of need.
Shamo: Establish a reliable system for creating 2-way communication then methodically build your technology to improve this conversation.
Willvonseder: Our understanding of relationship marketing is a very wide one. Relationship marketing is in every touchpoint the consumer and customer has with IKEA , and for us the most important one is the IKEA store and the IKEA coworker you will meet there. Here relations are built, through a good fun day out where you small kids can play in Smaland, through a good Swedish meal for a very good price in the IKEA restaurant, through friendly and helpful coworkers, through inspiring room sets which show you how easily you can fulfill your dreams in home furnishing with IKEA. When it comes to the context of external marketing we get into touch and conversations with consumers and customers through Social Media platforms.
Technology photo credit courtesy of Mervi Eskelinen aka tasselflower
[[reprinted in part from Forbes]]