Gone are the days when visiting a local store was the only way to shop. While in-store purchases are still strong, more customers than ever are using multiple channels to make buying decisions. And that brings up an important question: Are brands optimizing omni-channel communications to meet customer needs?
Let’s start with some data that helps illustrate why this question is vital. According to retail research highlighted in Business Insider, most customers (82%) say they’ve researched online before purchasing in store.
That study from retail consulting firm BRP also found that 87% of shoppers desire a personalized, consistent customer experience (CX) across channels. Yet, only 53% of retailers name personalized CX as a top priority.
It’s clear that customers take an omni-channel approach to shopping–and want their personal needs addressed at every touchpoint. But most brands aren’t keeping up.
One of the big areas where brands fall short is content. And that’s no surprise. It takes significant effort to fine-tune content and messaging for every channel. So what happens? Many brands recycle material across channels and hope for the best.
That said, some brands do a credible job of presenting personalized product recommendations to shoppers. Everyone knows about Amazon’s recommendations based on past purchases and searches:
Typically, that’s where any efforts to customize content end. What happens if a customer is having a hard time choosing between two competing product options? What if a customer isn’t sure that the value they’ll receive is worth the price they’ll pay?
Forward-thinking retailers are using conversational strategies to deliver truly personalized content to customers. With conversation, brands can connect one-on-one with customers and help guide shoppers on their buying journeys.
Using recycled, impersonal, or scripted content isn’t going to work for ready-to-buy shoppers. Instead, they need authentic, meaningful information to feel confident that they are making the best buying decisions every time they shop.
More Content Isn’t the Answer
As more customers have turned to digital channels, many brands have focused on adding more information to their websites. That is a reasonable approach, but it has limitations as well.
First, you should know that research has proven that people form opinions about web pages in 500 milliseconds. That equals 0.005 seconds! Adding more details to a website can clutter layout and diminish the user experience (UX). If customers feel overwhelmed, they’re likely to leave your site.
Consider this truth: People in the U.S. spend over half of each day engaging. It’s easy to see why people don’t have much patience with websites. Today, people spend six hours per day on digital channels, according to eMarketer.
Another compelling statistic: Researchers predict that by 2024, more than 463 exabytes of data will be created online each day. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, an exabyte is 1,0006 bytes–or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes! Information overload is only going to escalate.
And remember that you’re not just competing with other retailers for customers’ focus. You’re vying for their attention with other sources of information. Consider these stats on current data volumes to understand the magnitude of the issue. Each day, people around the world produce:
- 500 million tweets
- 95 million photos and videos on Instagram
- 294 billion emails
- 4 petabytes of Facebook
- 65 billion WhatsApp messages
- 5 billion searches
Also, you should know that your site visitors aren’t always 100% focused on the information on your site. More than half of people are multi-tasking while they browse or shop online.
It’s tempting to address customers’ desire for efficiency and self-service by adding more information on your website. But tread cautiously. Customers don’t want to wade through pages of in-depth product specs and FAQs. They want the information they need, delivered to them when they need it–on their own terms.
And more than information, customers crave advice. Shoppers want a human with been-there-done-that experience to help them review product considerations and make a highly-personalized decision.
If you can deliver the right information and the right advice to each customer, your brand can reap rewards. You’ll enjoy more orders, increased average orders, and heightened customer loyalty, as our research has proven:
More Technology Isn’t the Answer
Every marketer knows that competition for customer’s attention is fierce. That’s why it’s tempting to use the latest-and-greatest tech innovations to gain customer’s mindshare.
And there’s no shortage of new technology opportunities. In fact, Amazon has made its heralded personalization technology available to all, as TechCrunch notes. Other technologies rely on user behavior along with demographic and device data to present personalized content.
But that’s not all. As this Inc. article describes, you can now dazzle shoppers with interactive content, such as clickable maps, infographics, calculators, quizzes, and more.
That doesn’t mean you should rush off to outfit your site with all the sleekest tech around. Instead, you should know that slow performance is the #1 issue that causes customers frustration. In fact, 90% of customers have abandoned an eCommerce site if it didn’t load quickly:
As an article in Business News Daily explains:
While consumers generally see third-party functionality like product ratings and product comparison tools as a good thing, researchers found that retail websites are often too bogged down by these tools for them to do any good. In fact, they found that some pages were slowed down largely because they needed to load too much information if the retailer went overboard with third-party options. This situation was consistent between retailers’ homepages and product detail pages, whether they were being accessed on a desktop computer or mobile device.
Yes, customers are impatient. They want to find information and answers with little effort. And if they reach out to you during the marketing or sales phases of their journey, most expect an immediate answer. What does “immediate” mean to shoppers? Ten minutes or less, according to consumer research.
To address customers’ need for speed, many companies are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots. And they’re seeing mixed results. We’ve covered the limitations of AI and chatbots in a prior post. Simply put, chatbots can’t ever address the full range of human communication. At best, they can express a finite number of scripted responses that can feel cold, disingenuous, or repetitive to site visitors. Bots are ideal for simple tasks, but not helpful for complex purchase decisions.
Not only must retailer marketers grapple with challenges on their own websites, but they also need to navigate multiple outreach channels. Every channel–from mobile to email to text to each social network–has its own unique requirements and constraints. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and lose focus.
But one channel is proving to win over a majority of customers in every demographic. And that elite channel is messaging. Consumer research reveals that 89% of customers want to connect with customers via messaging. Unfortunately, less than half (48%) of companies use messaging to reach customers.
Shoppers’ preference for messaging underscores their need for immediacy and genuine conversation. And customer-savvy brands are heeding the call. Today’s retailers have an unprecedented opportunity to connect with shoppers at critical moments in their purchase journeys. With conversational experience platforms, retailers can link shoppers to brand experts for prompt, personalized guidance and product recommendations.
The Right Content via the Right Channel Is the Answer
Today’s shoppers have data on anything and everything 24/7. And retailers are struggling to find meaningful ways to connect with customers in our era of information overload.
With dozens of marketing channels, where should retailers focus? It will always be important to reach out across multiple channels. Every brand needs a mix of digital strategies and brick-and-mortar ones to compete and win market share.
But in this rush to proliferate across channels, brands need to think critically about the right content and the right technology. It’s not enough to perfect a marketing message, package it for reuse, and plaster it across every channel.
The key to success in the new era of CX isn’t polished, branded content. It’s authentic, personalized content that’s delivered one-on-one. Instead of formal communications or scripted service approaches, companies need to think about customer outreach in a novel way. They need to focus on genuine human-to-human communications between shoppers and brand enthusiasts who can advise them.
Although personalization of content is a priority for many brands, only a forward-thinking few have focused on authenticity, as our research shows:
One of the keys to effective digital CX success is the ability to personalize customer engagements and gain additional insight into customers’ needs and wants. This remains an area where many marketers and CX leaders express an interest in investigating to improve their CX. Overall, a majority, 68%, report personalization is the number one capability they need to investigate to improve their CX, however only 30% indicate providing more authenticity into customer engagements is of interest.
By focusing on conversation, brands can deliver the exact right content customers need for their personal buying journeys. And they can share it by the right channel that customers overwhelmingly prefer– messaging. When these two factors align, powerful new opportunities for customer communications emerge. Instead of leaving digital shoppers to find their way alone and hesitate about purchases, brands can empower shoppers with knowledge and confidence.
Take a look at this excerpt from a conversation between a person shopping for a drone and a product expert. Clearly, the shopper has done some homework and bought some valuable accessories to get started. But the technical know-how and range of options aren’t as straightforward. The product expert asks meaningful questions and shares product options to help the shopper think through choices:
The content of this conversation is 100% customized for this shopper–every step of the way. Because of the personalized focus, the shopper walks away from the conversation with new insights. Plus, the conversation has helped save the shopper’s time and prevented confusion. “Much easier than reading through multiple videos with conflicting opinions,” the shopper says.
No doubt about it: This is the type of experience that brands should be delivering to online shoppers. Those that do are poised to thrive in the years ahead.
Want to Win at Omni-Channel Communications? Focus on the Right Content and the Right Channel
Competition for customers in digital retail is intense. And it’s only going to escalate in the years ahead. Today’s retailers are facing a new reality as customers engage across multiple channels 24/7.
As consulting firm Accenture explains, brands need to accept that every customer is a digital customer. Although various segments may operate at different speeds, shoppers are likely to use digital channels in their buying journeys. And there’s not a clear, linear purchase path that customers follow. Also, retailers should know that shoppers are tuning into others’ voices as they weigh buying decisions.
How can brands address this new dynamic? You must be ready to be an influential and authentic voice that helps customers clarify purchase considerations. The next-generation retail leaders will embrace on-demand conversation to reach customers.
The truth is, you’ll always need a mix of channels to stay front-of-mind with shoppers. And you’ll always need to fine-tune content to align with channel standards. But you’ll also need real-time, 1:1 content personalized to each customer. The only way to achieve that goal is through a conversational strategy.
As a new decade emerges, retailers need to anticipate the future. You need to look towards the day when online sales overtake in-store sales. And that day may be closer than you think. According to industry researchers, some major retailers will see online sales surpassing brick-and-mortar sales by 2024:
Making smart investments today will prepare you for this inevitable future. Instead of cluttering your site with excessive content or technical features of limited value, you should focus on conversation. You can deliver the customized content shoppers need via a familiar messaging channel with a conversational experience platform.
A personalized human touch will help shoppers feel connected to your site and brand. You’ll stand out as a customer-centered retailer that cares about wanting to help customers make the right buying decisions. And that will set you apart from the other brands vying for customers’ attention.
But wait! Are you worried your tech-stack isn’t up to snuff? Fear not! — Because Online Conversion is about the Content, Not the Technology. (Just make sure you’re delivering!)