Brands and retailers know how critical it is to put the customer first and offer some level of personalization. Yet, this can be particularly challenging along the digital customer journey when human interaction is minimal to non-existent. But, when you make the customer feel special, they are more likely to purchase from you, and better yet, form a lasting relationship with you.
Global eCommerce retail sales reached $3.46 trillion in 2019 (up from $2.93 trillion in 2018). These eCommerce sales represent 16% of all sales, and with that percentage continuing to grow steadily, it is vital for retailers to prioritize growing their digital retail space.
In order to provide the best experience, it is important to look at the digital customer journey from two sides; the customers’ journey towards purchasing products, and a brand’s or retailers’ journey towards meeting (and exceeding) the customers’ expectations at each step leading to the point of sale.
Opportunities Along the Digital Customer Journey
The basic customer journey is a traditional analysis of the conversion process broken down into simplified steps. However, there are opportunities for personalization throughout the entire journey.
Step 1: Values and Brand Awareness
Thorough knowledge of each of your customer’s individual preferences is tremendously valuable. It will help you meet your current customers’ needs better, and it will help you in the search for new customers.
How do you get this information? As it turns out, people are often willing to share more personal information than you may think. Research shows that 57% of U.S. consumers said they would be willing to give companies permission to collect their personal data to allow for more personalized, customized experiences. That figure rises to 63% when customers are offered a service they highly value.
Customer data can be used to create idealized shopper personas. Your brand or company probably has multiple customer personas, based on information such as:
- preferred social media
- lifestyle preferences
- past purchase history
It is reasonable to believe that if you have strong customer support from shoppers with distinct characteristics, others with the same characteristics will share the same brand affinity.
Step 2: Shopper Identification
Once you are in the eye of the consumer, you have to provide something of value. For a customer returning to your website, you might recommend certain items based on either the individual’s previous purchases, or items purchased by others with a similar profile to the shopper. This method, known as collaborative filtering, is incorporated into Amazon’s recommendation engine. Other websites simply ask for extensive user data to power their recommendation engine. Adidas and the Dollar Shave Club both use a quiz to collect data on new customers.
The process of separating out multiple personas among your customers is called segmenting. It is also highly effective in email drip campaigns, where it was shown to increase campaign revenue by up to 760%. Segmentation can also guide social media ad campaigns and influencer partnerships by targeting new customers based on their personas. Beauty brands received an average ROI of 8.81:1 from influencers within the beauty industry in 2017.
Step 3: Research and Consideration
The consumer is naturally open to communication at this point because they are looking for information to help them make a purchasing decision. Some of the main ways you can reach them are:
- Reviews. Reviews are as trustworthy as word of mouth as 84% of consumers consider them in their decision-making process. Even bad reviews give you the chance to show personal interest and concern through a well-thought-out response.
- Content. Helpful and informative content on your website can guide consumers to conversion. SEO optimization makes website content especially effective.
- Retargeting. Retargeting is the cookie-based practice of advertising products previously viewed on your website to bounced customers. Visitors who leave a website and are retargeted are 70% more likely to convert.
Step 4: Decision and Conversion
This step is often the most personalized. Chat features are steadily becoming more popular. Research shows that people who interact in a live chat are 82% more likely to convert. Although that’s an impressive statistic, it does not mean that you shouldn’t consider utilizing a chatbot. Chatbots are capable of responding to simple, repetitive tasks faster than a human, making a tandem of AI and human presence ideal. It’s also worth noting that 36% of consumers say they expect to receive support from a chatbot.
The harmonious collaboration between human and machine can also be seen via a digital personal shopper. This technology takes the chatbot/live chat model beyond typical customer service to provide more substantive advice on purchasing decisions. It was pioneered by Netflix and online retailers like Thread, and is spreading quickly among top retailers.
Step 5: Experience and Loyalty
Your relationship with your customer shouldn’t end at purchase. Remaining engaged with the customer encourages repeat buying and increases customer lifetime value (LTV). You can maintain that connection with each of your customers through:
- Reviews and feedback. Customers like to be heard, and the extra encouragement of rewarding them with a small benefit like a one-time discount on their next purchase or loyalty program points can make writing a review or responding to a survey even more satisfying.
- Customer service. There are many creative ways brands can show exceptional customer service. You can engage the customer with a follow-up “thank you” and check to make sure there are no after-purchase issues that require action. You can also re-engage customers via exclusive offers. In a recent survey, 59% of consumers indicated that the most important way a brand can interact with them is through surprise offers and gifts.
- Loyalty programs. A personalized customer journey often leads to loyalty that can be formalized via a membership program. Given that retained customers are worth more than new customers, loyalty programs provide significant value to brands. Loyalty program members can generate a wealth of data, especially when first signing up. This is particularly true for companies like Sephora and DSW that incorporate questionnaires into the membership experience. All of this valuable information can provide analytical insights and be used to personalize offers in recommendation engines. Some important statistics to note:
- 79% of consumers say that loyalty programs make them more likely to continue doing business with Brands.
- They are motivated to join mainly by the desire for free products (75%), discounts (71%), free samples (67%), and free services (56%).
- The same survey found that 85% of consumers would like to select the benefits and rewards they receive.
Touch on All Steps of the Digital Customer Journey With an App
There are many opportunities for you to make a lasting connection with your customers via personalization along the digital customer journey.
We have touched on several strategies and technologies that have proven effective along parts of the journey, but a third-party app can personalize the entire customer journey from beginning to end.
Shopkick is a highly gamified shopping rewards app that engages users in an entertaining manner and allows them to earn points (“kicks”) for interacting with brands and products along the path to purchase. By partnering with Shopkick, you can connect with both new and existing consumers who are highly engaged and hungry for branded content. A campaign for a leading vitamin and supplement brand garnered over 36M impressions, with 53% of users hearing about the featured products for the first time.
Shopkick users can earn “kicks” in-store or online. Because Shopkick is fun and easy to use, shoppers are eager to explore new products and engage with the platform. When Georgia-Pacific partnered with Shopkick to build awareness and drive trial and consideration for its new product launch, the app curated a campaign that kept the product top of mind at all points of the shopper journey. They created educational content in-app for shoppers to interact with at-home, incentivized users to seek out the product in-store, and then—using innovative 2D image recognition—delivered a branded video highlighting the product’s unique features while the product was still in the shopper’s hands. This campaign resulted in a 99% branded video completion rate, over 16M impressions, and 50% incremental purchases.