In today’s multichannel world, consumers have more flexibility and more avenues for shopping than ever before. The customer journey frequently is a multiplatform ride encompassing interactions via smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.
This offers consumers unprecedented flexibility and convenience. However, it also produces a significantly more complicated experience for retailers to manage. There’s no chance that this multichannel revolution will slow, however, so brands need to act now to address these challenges or risk being crushed by the competition.
It’s evident that mobile is the driving force behind ecommerce engagement. Forrester Research projects sales from consumers shopping on smartphones and tablets will reach $114 billion this year. By 2018, the research firm predicts that number will hit $293 billion. While mcommerce is clearly growing rapidly, this upward trajectory does not signal the death knell for traditional in-store retailers.
According to a recent eMarketer report, mobile usage before or during an in-store visit accounts for one-fifth of brick-and-mortar sales in the U.S. This statistic underscores a critical component of the ecommerce age—customers frequently engage with brands via a variety of mobile platforms throughout their path to purchase.
In this environment of ever-expanding channels and devices, retailers cannot afford to have a standardized approach for every touchpoint as consumers interact with websites differently depending upon the platform at hand.
At the same time, it’s critical that brands not be siloed in their customer engagement. Customers have high expectations for service delivery and will quickly lose interest with campaigns that differ across platforms or sites that prevent a seamless purchasing journey across devices.
To be successful today, brands must create a unified shopping experience that also caters to the unique viewing requirements and restrictions of the channel at hand. As part of this, it’s critical that retailers consider how customers will utilize content across devices. Most ecommerce sites have a wealth of video, imagery and other content that is easily navigable via a standard web browser running on a desktop or laptop. When it comes to mobile browsing, however, these same pages will appear crowded and cumbersome given the smaller screen size of most mobile devices.
Responsive design coupled with adaptive media is an effective solution for addressing this need, as it enables seamless, optimized digital publishing across all devices and formats.
This doesn’t mean that video and other interactive elements are uniformly stripped out, but rather that their usage is automatically adjusted based upon the screen size and other factors. The technology also optimises interactions for the mobile platform, making it as intuitive as possible for consumers to interact with the content from any device.
For example, scrolling through product pages via a single thumb swipe rather than clicking an arrow to move to the next image or other actions typical of the desktop experience.
In addition to optimizing digital content across platforms, retailers can also further hone content delivery to provide a more personalized experience. With adaptive design, images on a mobile site are rendered at a lower bandwidth but this can be adjusted based upon individual user behavior—for example, providing a higher level resolution version of the item when a consumer clicks to view it in detail.
Retailers can also draw on analytics to better market to consumers. The length of a shopper’s duration on a page is indicative of their interest in a product and their likelihood of purchase is further revealed by the way in which they interact with the item.
For example, the duration and frequency of product zooms, spin interactions, and whether the consumer scrolls over the item in alternate color options. These and other data points can be mined for valuable insight into individual shopping preferences.
Delivering a high-quality customer experience has always been a top priority for retailers. The challenges of achieving this goal have grown significantly in recent years, however. As mobile and other advances open up new avenues for engagement, retailers must understand how their customers are interacting with the brand across different channels.
Not only does this provide an optimal customer experience, it also enables companies to optimize inventory and drive sales. As such, it’s critical that retailers take steps today to ensure their content meets the divergent needs of the multichannel customer.
Rory Dennis is General Manager of Amplience North America.