Retailers have the opportunity to engage customers constantly through online and mobile channels, but they must win customers’ attention and meet their expectations to gain their business. Two broad challenges must be met.
Challenge #1 – Engage Millennial Shoppers
Customers of all ages, influenced by their interactions on social media and entertainment sites, expect all sites and apps to be high performing and lightning fast. In retail, Amazon both sets the pace and poses a continuous competitive threat. The millennials – 80 million strong and with fast-growing buying power – are the most demanding, unforgiving, and fickle customers. With some notable exceptions, they often value cost and experience over brand.
- They want a fast, seamless, interactive, immersive, digital experience that satisfies, and even anticipates, their needs.
- In return, they are willing to share information to shape the marketing they receive and sometimes willing to pay a premium for personalized convenience.
- They turn to social media to investigate products and exchange opinions, and retailers must join the conversation there to maintain credibility and trust.
Challenge #2 – Cross Channels Seamlessly
Customers want to be recognized and see consistency across channels, including both in-store and always-available websites and mobile apps. The more channels that customers use to interact with retailers, the more they tend to spend.
- Two in three millennials use apps to aid in-store shopping and want the mobile experience to enhance the physical retail experience.
- By collecting, attributing, and analyzing data from across channels, retailers can develop a holistic view of each customer, predict customer behavior, and further personalize products, services, promotions, loyalty programs, and targeted advertising.
- Cross-channel integration offers retailers new efficiencies in inventory, distribution, and marketing that create benefits for the omni-channel customer.
With successful cross-channel engagement, retailers can boost the number of sales transactions, convert prospects to customers, upsell existing customers, and cultivate customer loyalty.
Innovations to Engage
Leading retailers are meeting these challenges and engaging customers in many innovative ways:
- From the customer standpoint, the Starbucks mobile app serves a simple purpose – pre-order and skip the line. For the company, the mobile channel also drives order accuracy, employee productivity, and revenue growth. Starbucks seeks digital experience insights from companies with the best retail experience in the world – no matter the industry.
- The Barneys mobile app provides personalized, consistent customer experience in store and online. In store, the app becomes more personal, sending notifications and recommendations based on what’s in stock and also in customers’ mobile shopping bags or wish lists.
- With a Sam’s Club app, members use their smartphones to completely bypass the checkout lane by scanning UPC codes on items in their carts and paying directly from anywhere in the store. The app also offers member-exclusive savings.
- The Home Depot launched a completely revamped site and mobile app that use data and behavioral analysis to learn how customers are shopping, as well as gather customer feedback that ultimately contributes to improved engagement.
- The IKEA catalog features image recognition and augmented reality, offering personalized digital content and product views, and merging the benefits of in-store and online shopping. Customers can scan the catalog with a mobile app to see 360-view furniture displays, “virtually” place IKEA furniture pieces in their own homes, and choose the products, colors, and sizes that work best.
- One of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms has the most-downloaded shopping apps in dozens of countries and processes millions of orders a day. It is engaging customers by live-streaming celebrity events over social media, experimenting with virtual and augmented reality to deliver personalized online experiences, and launching offline showrooms to drive online engagement.
Technology that Drives Customer Engagement
To capitalize on the explosive growth of e-commerce, retailers need ultra-high-performance technology infrastructure with the speed and scale to:
- Meet customer expectations for engaging, even immersive, online and mobile experiences.
- Support the advanced real-time analytics behind page displays, recommendations, and personalized interaction.
- Optimize network performance, including for the display of images on mobile devices.
- Maintain uncompromising security and protect customer information.
Akamai is the most dependable network for e-commerce, supporting the top 20 e-commerce sites in the world and 96 of the top U.S. retailers.
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