For Retailers, Digital Success Depends on Customer Success

by Mark Finch goMoxie

goMoxie’s VP Mark Finch discusses why it’s essential for retailers to digitalise methods to stay in business, and how they can do this effectively.

M&S reports a 3.7 per cent sales dip over Christmas. John Lewis has warned of impending store closures. H&M is opening fewer new locations than ever—and taking a new approach with its existing stores by offering logistical services to online shoppers. The dawn of the digital age has shone a bright light on traditional retailers, and the picture isn’t always pretty. Is it already too late for legacy retailers to remain current and profitable in these changing times? Is there still a path to success for brands who’ve long neglected the needs of digital customers and face a daunting climb back to relevance? Perhaps—but they’ve got to be smart and strategic about it. It all starts with the customer.

What success looks like today—to customers and businesses

For the modern customer, a successful digital experience is seamless, intuitive, and quick. The company anticipates their needs and guides them toward the right choices so they can fulfil their task and move on with their life. We can see this type of experience enacted across a wide range of thriving businesses.

Consumers ordering from online marketplaces can choose products recommended, and get them delivered the next day—most of the time free. In entertainment, we’re guided towards the best recommendations based on what we’ve previously been watching. In travel, we can use mobile apps to change flights from different countries as needed in just a few clicks.

Experiences like these aren’t considered exceptional anymore. In fact, they’re quickly becoming the expectation. Businesses that can’t meet this new standard risk being seen as out-of-date and unwelcoming to customers. That’s a real problem for retailers who haven’t yet undergone digital transformation. It’s even a problem for many digital-native companies more focused on aesthetic imagery than the actual path to purchase.

But there’s hope for traditional retailers and other businesses across sectors. Whether or not they’ve completed their core digital transformation, any business that has a product or service offering to customers can use digital to significantly improve the experience they provide, and the success of their business.

Guide digital customer toward success

As store closures mount and customer expectations rise, companies face immense pressure to evolve. How can they possibly compete against tech titans who already do this so well? The key is to focus on their existing strengths and leverage these into digital.

Consider the in-store model that traditional built their fortunes on. A customer enters the store, browses—then hesitates. There’s a moment of uncertainty or confusion. Do the in-store associates sit idly by and hope they figure it out before giving up and leaving? Of course not—they read the body language, assess their need and their receptiveness to help, and offer the right kind of assistance at the right moment, in the right way. If it worked in stores, why wouldn’t it work online?

Digital customers offer just as many cues as in-store shoppers. You can see when and where they hesitate. You can tell when they’re comparing options or seeking more information. You can also see trends—the points in the shopping journey where people tend to get hung up. Leaving them to seek help or mine information on their own is like ignoring a struggling customer in a store until they storm out. Online, that translates into low conversion rates, high abandonment, a lack of customer satisfaction, and a drag on brand loyalty.

Customers shouldn’t need to struggle to get things done online. Retailers invest in expensive advertising and retargeting to drive customers online, but then they leave them alone, with none of the expertise in-store assistants usually provide for customers. It’s no wonder online conversion rates have stayed around 3 per cent for the last 20+ years.

Instead, guide customers using data analytics to understand where friction exists. In fact, just following their journey yourself by shopping your own site can be an eye-opening experience. Using this intelligence to guide customers through the digital discovery and purchase path is the key to success. By providing proactive information that makes it easier for them to make informed purchasing decisions, you can increase average order value and conversion rates.

Short-term results along the road to digital transformation

It’s critical to simplify the customer experience by guiding and interacting with customers today. Brands such as Amazon, EasyJet, and Netflix have set the bar high. By matching their standard, retailers and other online businesses can position themselves among the new generation of brands while growing conversion rates, increasing profits, and improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.