Consumer expectations continue to rise: this statement shouldn’t be news to you. Shoppers are engaging in-store and online — and are expecting a unified experience across all touchpoints. Despite the shift in expectations, retailers have in many ways been slow to catch up on personalizing the omnichannel shopper experience.
It’s a rare case for a retailer’s site to pivot in real-time to my current purchase intent as I browse. Often sites that do attempt to react to my intent are typically powered by legacy personalization solutions using segmentation and merchandising rules. However, these sites do not continue understanding my current intent - rather they retarget me with things that were relevant weeks ago.
It is even less common for a website to individualize my experience and change based on online and in-store behaviors. A business that is able to do so today is ahead of the curve - and in a few years, we expect that this functionality will be table stakes.
So how can today’s retailers respond to consumer expectations? I am going to take you through a few key initiatives to provide the full omni-view of the customer.
While the Coronavirus has pushed many industries to offer buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) to survive, continuing a seamless BOPIS offering will be more important than ever since shoppers are getting accustomed to seeing real-time inventory on a store level while shopping and browsing online. This is especially impactful for retailers offering furniture, clothing, and other products which is helpful to touch before making a purchase.
Real-time inventory at a store level is valuable to the shopper whether he/she is buying online and picking up in-store, or just browsing to ensure the store has what you are looking for before making the trip.
With Sitecore Discover, retailers are able to implement store availability capabilities. This enables the shopper to choose their online store. Sitecore Discover is then able to show them the relevant products based on in-store inventory and individualize the experience showing products that are both available in-store and match the user’s affinities. To power this level of in-store inventory in real-time, retailers are sending Sitecore Discover in-store inventory on an ongoing basis.
Setting up this functionality was critical for one of our largest multi-category retailers in the US, not only because it is a perk that offers more convenience than Amazon, but because they know that a shopper in-store tends to be worth several times more than an online shopper in terms of average order value (AOV).
Continue in-store experiences online
When retailers take the next step to sync in-store transactional feeds to Customer IDs, shoppers can log in online and continue their journey with a website experience that fits their affinities and aligns perfectly with their past steps.
What does this experience look like? Let’s say a shopper visits a store and purchases new bedsheets. The shopper uses the in-store kiosk or customer loyalty program to identify herself during checkout. She later returns home and logs-in to her account online and may see pillows, throw blankets, or complementary furniture in the preview search bar or product recommendations. The adventure might continue in ways that the human mind would have never guessed. If Sitecore Discover recognizes the shopper has an affinity for the brand, style, color, etc tend to like classical music or fine wine, then the system will offer these recommendations across the site, as well.
Extend the individualized experience through email
Not all shoppers are ready to commit. One of the reasons online shoppers abandon carts more than in-store shoppers is because it is more difficult to make an emotional connection online. Even with a site that offers a unique shopping journey, retailers still acknowledge online abandonment rates are high. To improve conversion rates, retargeting emails bring the shopper back. These emails are personalized to each individual taking into account the user’s in-store purchases and online behavior. Emails powered through Sitecore Discover are individualized on open, rather than on send - so if the user were to come back and continue navigating the site then the products and images that user will see in their email will be up-to-date based on all their latest behavior. Individualized emails remind the shopper of their recent favorites and offer additional relevant products they haven’t considered yet.
Bringing both in-store and online data together brings immense value to retailers today and improves shopper experiences. Sitecore Discover helps retailers use this data to create seamless online and in-store experiences.
By syncing transactional in-store data, retailers using Sitecore Discover are gaining insight into what’s trending in different regions, store locations, and what products tend to be purchased together. An ideal online optimization and individualization platform will not only take into account online trends but also store-level trends.
Sitecore Discover stores a unique profile for each shopper that visited the store. The profile contains all interactions the visitor did within the store and online. Sitecore Discover uses this in order to build affinities that the visitor has to anything from gender, brand, price point, category, and any other attribute that might be relevant to the business. This profile drives all future experiences that are provided to the user across all channels.
A word on privacy
With data comes responsibility. Personalizing experiences with Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is extremely risky. With Sitecore Discover, no PII is needed to create seamless shopper journeys across touchpoints online or in-store.
A common question we hear from retailers is “Will our shoppers find it strange or creepy if the website automatically responds to their actions?” I look at data to answer this question. Across Sitecore Discover’s customer base there is a 25% average increase of conversion rates when the site understands and responds to the purchase intent of the individual shopper in real-time. At the end of the day, we are all consumers looking for convenience.
With that said, I’m sure I am not alone in viewing a product listing page only to have that exact product recommendation follow me around all of my internet activity for a few weeks.
If it’s creepy, it means you’re not doing it right.
In order for retailers to optimize experiences through individualization, it should be delicate, it should be based on more than one click, and more importantly rather than just looking at which product I clicked on, and then showing me similar products, individualization should learn my many affinities, and then show me products that match those.
Someone that has a liking for classical music may like a type of wine. A user that is a fan of old jazz might like rustic furniture. A retailer should learn more about the shopper on a deeper level, and understand their wants even before they do themselves.
Sharing these key initiatives to create a seamless omnichannel experience and provide a full view of the omnichannel customer reminded me of the Socratic method. Socrates and Plato believed that the soul was eternal and that therefore had infinite knowledge. Learning is a process that doesn’t need to provide answers, but rather simply remind us what we already know by asking questions.
As a shopper navigates through their journey and begins to provide Sitecore Discover’s AI their plethora of affinities, it is up to Sitecore Discover to provide a few answers in terms of what products are most relevant and available. Beyond that, it is up the AI to ask the user new questions to continue their journey in finding the right product.