Retailers Must Deliver a Seamless Shopping Experience

Tis the time of year,
When the inbox is full of holiday cheer.
Once the wintery wonder starts to be seen,
You better start planning for 2015!

OK, I’ll stop with the rhyming now. I think the all-consuming sparkle and shine of the holidays has taken control of my noggin. It’s probably happening to you too.

This make-or-break time of year means lots of work and lots of sales for ecommerce marketers, which can cause many to forget about planning for the upcoming new year.  Before you tense up and click away from this article, take a breath. I’m not here to make you stress out or give you more work to do. I just want to help ease you into your post-holiday plan by distilling several emerging 2015 trends down to a single conceptual root that you can use to start the conversation for next year’s plans.

Here goes:

Consumers expect a seamless shopping experience across devices and channels. Retailers must meet this expectation or lose customers.

Sounds simple, right? Probably read something similar before, right? While this statement should get your planning team talking, there are subtleties in this simple statement that can be easily overlooked and should be explored in more detail during your planning process. I’m going to break this down for you so nothing is missed.

Consumer Expectations

We have moved beyond the will-they-won’t-they phase of wondering whether consumers will use mobile devices to actually make a purchase. Device ownership, whether you slice it by age, gender or region, is so high that you should just accept the fact that your customers have them and spend money on them. The newness has worn off. Mobile devices are now a deeply integrated part of everyday shopping and buying. Today’s consumer expects to be able to use multiple devices throughout every stage of the path to purchase.

Mobile-optimized sites are great, but a mobile-optimized shopping cart and checkout will be essential in 2015. Apps are fine, but they aren’t a new concept for consumers. Your app must provide value, utility and help your customer to shop and buy.

Seamless Shopping Experiences

While it is important to have all of your channels running at full steam, a shopper’s experience can quickly go off the rails when they transition from one channel to another or switch between multiple devices. As you plan for 2015, you need to identify the moments when your customers are likely to make these moves and find ways to keep them connected.

Your shopping cart will likely be one of the connectors. In Bronto’s study, “Why We Don’t Buy: Consumer Attitudes on Shopping Cart Abandonment,” we found that 40% of online shoppers will use the cart to store items to view later on a mobile device. Thirty-six percent will put items in the cart so they can view them later in a brick-and-mortar store.

You can facilitate this transition even if you aren’t sure when or where your customers are making these leaps. Review your triggered messages, such as welcome emails, cart reminders and product page reminders, to ensure that the content speaks to a multi-channel, multi-device experience. Include store location information, customer service contact information and consider using language that speaks to customers who may be bouncing around. Promote tools like inventory-look up and in-store pick-up.

Plan to expand triggered messages into your stores. Push notifications can be sent based on a shopper’s location in your store or when they leave empty handed. Post-shopping messages containing relevant information from the visit, such as top products from areas browsed or offers for specific products, can be triggered.

Losing Customers

Losing customers does not mean the same as lost sales. Retailers who fail to meet the expectation of a seamless, multi-channel, multi-device shopping (and buying) experience will begin to see dips in engagement and overall customer satisfaction as customers find their way to retailers who are successfully connecting the dots.

Yes, we all want the sale, but you can’t get the sale if your customers have become frustrated when interacting with your brand. Map out engagement baselines as you plan for 2015.  You will need to closely monitor any shifts in opens, clicks and unsubscription rates that could indicate that your customers are not getting the experience the want.

You may be a marketing maven, but you must accept the fact that consumers have more control of the shopping experience than ever before. Your 2015 plan should be centered on how today’s consumer shops. Failure to provide these seamless experiences may result in a more panicked, stressful 2016 planning meeting!

Jim Davidson is Director of Research at Bronto Software.

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