Beating the digital shopping crisis

30th Jun 2017

Traditional retailers are facing an existential crisis in customer engagement. In the last year alone, customers spent 41 per cent less time on retailer websites while there has been a 20 per cent decline in organic product searches. Customers have truly gone mobile, constantly on their phones and social media. Indeed, consumers today enjoy 60 per cent more phone sessions and spend 20 per cent more time on social media than in 2015, and there are no signs this will slow.

Yet how have retailers responded to the rise of digital shopping? While customer habits have changed, the engagement strategies of many retailers clearly have not. Too many are still prioritising a desktop-based, one size-fits-all approach to customer engagement. They are churning out webpages and experiences not optimised for a range of mobile devices, alienating the growing ranks of customers who shop primarily from their phones or tablets. As a result, the customer experience is suffering and so are bottom lines.

The majority of retailers recognise that they need to do more to engage with this new wave of digital customers. However, saddled with legacy systems and anachronistic supplier relationships that no longer reflect the needs of the always-on customer, the path is unclear and full of obstacles.

It hasn’t been doom and gloom for all though. There have clearly been winners in ‘fast fashion’ retailers like Missguided and Boohoo. These brands operate under a different set of rules, and their approach can teach us a lot about exceptional retail engagement.

Struggling retailers should look at this and realise they need a brand-new engagement strategy. To succeed, they need to know a lot more about their customers, who they are, their preferences and be able to offer the right content for them the instant they want it.

The importance of content cannot be overstated. 80 per cent of all sales have a digital touchpoint – a point at which the customer went online and discovered a product, researched it further or talked to their friends on social media about it – and these elements are heavily influenced by content.    

Ultimately, fast, quality content helps customers find what they want (often before they even knew they wanted it) much faster than from their own browsing. What’s important to remember is that customers won’t wait. If they can’t find what they’re looking for on your site, they will quickly move to another.

In this new world of ecommerce, attention has become the currency. Retailers are no longer competing only with other retailers, they are competing for mindshare with potentially every content provider on the web. That’s fierce competition, and retailers must strive for deep customer engagement – providing targeted, personalised content across every digital moment and that’s ready at all times – to get attention.

That’s no small task. Good retail engagement of this kind requires a tsunami of content to work, and you can’t copy and paste your way into customers’ hearts and wallets. Stale, infrequently updated content will bore your audience, kill your website and your brand. Content has to give the customer what they want and fast, but to really succeed it should also be engaging and inspiring for the viewer.

Fortunately, retailers don’t have to compromise on the speed or quality of their content. To achieve this, retailers must realise that the traditional production process is untenable. The familiar approach of creating, sorting and delivering static content to a retailer’s website will no longer cut it. The content factory must be industrialised using the latest technology to deliver the speed and personalisation required. Solutions that store the mass of a retailer’s digital content in the cloud, dynamically categorise and then deliver it straight to the customer’s device work best here.

Content alone will not solve a retailer’s problems, but alongside an excellent commerce platform and analytics-driven customer profiling it is one of the central pillars of modern retail engagement. Alone, one of these pillars can only do so much, but if one is missing the other two will surely fall. Taken together, these three pillars are the key to driving conversions and turning browsers into buyers.  

By James Brooke, CEO of Amplience

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