The Road to the Ecommerce Store of the Future is Paved with Customer-centric Experiences
How will people want to shop in the future? How will consumers’ shopping preferences shape the future look, feel and components of the store experience? Will the consumer journey eventually become entirely entrenched in the digital world, causing a brick-and-mortar mass extinction?
These are the questions that have beckoned retailers to implement magic changing mirrors, nail bars and basketball courts in their physical stores with hopes of staying ahead of the dizzying speed of shifting consumer behavior.
However, in retailers’ pursuit for innovative experiences, a critical element has yet to be challenged. How will shoppers want to shop online in the future?
It’s understandable how this component has been pushed to the wayside – the opportunities to transform the brick-and-mortar experience are vast and glamorous. But as we have grown accustomed to the realities of digital commerce, we know all too well that you can’t ferociously compete on one front alone. Ensuring that the online experience is innovating at the same pace as brick-and-mortar is critical to delivering the holistic customer experience that shoppers are increasingly demanding.
Lucky for businesses, playing catch-up won’t be hard. Brick-and-mortar trends have already forged a path for an innovative ecommerce experience – and the road is paved with customer-centric interactions.
2017 Retail Trends: Consumers’ signal their preferred experiences
If you compare the website of the most innovative retailer to a mom-and-pop ecommerce site, a thread of similarity will connect the distinct experiences – the online catalog is organized similarly to big-box retailers. While it may not be intentional, the navigational patterns through the physical and digital experiences are the same.
Customers walk into a Macy’s, find the appropriate floor or section that corresponds to a specific categorical good, then they’re left to sift through piles of product until they find the item that meets their needs. Correspondingly, to browse products online, shoppers must filter product options by category then sort through endless product pages to find the few items that truly align with their preferences.
But is this really how consumers want to shop?
Retail trends would tell us otherwise. The decline of legacy big-box retailers and the increasing popularity of pop-up shops (an industry that has grown to $10 billion) and specialty stores like Nordstrom Local are evidence that consumers are no longer satisfied with this experience.
In part, these shifts are due to basic human limitations. Known as the ‘”Paradox of Choice“, human brains are simply overloaded when presented with too many options. Instead of logically weighing our choices, too many alternatives overwhelm us to the point of paralysis. Consequently, many of us walk away from department stores empty handed and on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Generational behavior also predisposes certain cohorts to favor things that are authentic and experiential instead of generic, commercialized goods for the masses. This is because most of us, especially millennial’s and Gen Z’s, are operating in a “constant state of partial attention.” Meaning, we are always on high alert, constantly paying partial attention to our opportunities. It’s motivated by our desire to be connected, recognized and to be participants in the opportunities that will yield the most significance.
Put plainly, we don’t want to spend time sifting through products that we won’t ultimately buy. We want to feel important and recognized through products and experiences that are personalized, unique and impactful. These benefits often come with smaller storefronts where the time spent combing through products is replaced with more human interaction and carefully curated selections.
What will set the future ecommerce store experience apart? The answer is in the data.
These consumer tendencies must be applied to the digital world. The trends tell us limiting product options is a necessary ingredient to an enhanced customer experience, but in what way can we restrictively filter products to create the compelling impact that consumers yearn for?
To answer this question, you have to look at why individuals ultimately buy the items that they do.
While fashion is something that is presented to us, style is something we as individuals choose. The clothes we wear are an expression of our identity. It reflects who we are, what we’re interested in, what we value and believe in. These are the specific items consumers’ love and will continue to buy from brands time and time again.
To businesses, this expression of self is seen by way of transaction data points. Through every article of clothing each individual purchases, they are communicating to the world how they see themselves in the context of a particular brand. Together, comprehensive customer history tells a story about how individuals emotionally connect with a business and offers a glimpse into how particular shoppers are likely to buy in the future.
Your Store: The ecommerce store of the future
Putting customers at the heart of the experience – the accolade of future physical and digital retail encounters that will be achieved by harnessing the power of historical data.
These experiences will cut through the noise of product proliferation by giving each customer the exclusivity to view the items that are most compelling – the products that speak most to their individual tastes, history and connection with a brand.
The ecommerce store of the future will realize the one-to-one personalization dream through people and machine learning. Supported by a robust technology that unifies disparate data and leverages machine learning, this personalized experience will use comprehensive historical data and real-time online behavior to build a dynamic microsite that caters to the individual. Customers can search, view their history and access personalized product suggestions all within the context of their own tastes and all efficiently displayed to them in one place.
Drawing on consumers’ favorability toward impactful, authentic experiences, this individualized microsite will include the participation of sales associates to deliver manually curated product suggestions. It will infuse the uniquely human ability to exchange original ideas with the precision, accuracy and intelligence of machine-learning predictability.
The future of all consumer experiences – physical and digital – will be supported by data-driven personalization and intelligent collaboration to create customer interactions that drive loyalty, engagement and ultimately, businesses bottom-line.
Current technology exists, like 4-Tell’s Smart Commerce℠ Platform, which has materialized these revolutionary experiences for today’s retailers. This transformative client experience called “Your Store” is already being deployed in the market and is available today. Customers’ reactions to ‘Your Store’ have solidified our beliefs surrounding consumer experiences. Customers love, and pour loyalty, into personalized interactions that make them feel like they’re businesses only customer.
The future is here and the time is now for businesses to implement immersive, machine-learning solutions that finally put the most important stakeholders – customers – at the heart of the experience.