Reimagining retail experiences through digital transformation

5 minute read

Over the course of one week in March 2020, Google saw search volume for “curbside pickup” grow by 70 per cent. Jean-Philippe Gauthier, Head of Digital Marketing Transformation at Google Canada, knows the value of that famous search bar. It captures a lot of customer intent. In this case, the insight was a graphic illustration of how fast change happens.

Before the pandemic shifted our outlook, regulatory changes and new technologies were already transforming e-commerce. And then, in the space of eight weeks, digital adoption skipped five years1 – with some companies reporting year-on-year surges of as much as 400 per cent. By force of circumstance, businesses and consumers have adapted, adopting new habits that are here to stay.

Canada’s e-commerce moment is now. It’s as simple as that. Welcome to a revolution where automation and prediction are your key allies.

Jean-Philippe Gauthier

Head of Digital Marketing Transformation

Google Canada

Are you prepared? The online retailers benefitting from this surge are those who recognize what digital transformation means to business success and why the speed of change counts. As a nation, we’re not all there yet. Gauthier scores us at a two out of four on our journey to digital maturity. There’s work to do, so let’s get started.

How to create outstanding customer experiences

Here are four ways you can tap into technology, perk up your processes and create standout customer experiences. We’ve also included examples of Canadian retailers who are successfully putting the consumer at the heart of everything.

It’s time to reimagine Canadian retail. Three retail experts reveal key emerging opportunities.

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1. Recognize the power of personalization

We all recognize and appreciate a Netflix curated experience of personalized viewing recommendations. Lululemon gets it, too. Early in the game, the Canadian athleisure company understood what was at stake. They knew that CX was at the heart of digital strategy. When their physical stores were forced to close because of COVID-19, Lululemon stepped up its digital, omni-channel and e-commerce activities.

Automate customer connection

Investing in automation, Lululemon is changing the way it connects with consumers and is increasingly able to retarget based on knowledge about customer intent. Miguel Almeida, Executive Vice President of Digital, explains that the company’s goal is to build a digital platform and ecosystem that amplifies the experiences, community and relationships Lululemon is all about.

Use data to personalize your marketing campaigns

Analyst Rohit Chauhan explains how agile development models will help Lululemon increase their speed to market, while noting that integrating data intel into personalized marketing has increased traffic by 50 per cent. Embracing innovation, Lululemon is cultivating community ambassadors and creating space for guests to connect through yoga and meditation classes online.2

Adapt how you sell, deliver and inform

In an article in RetailWire, Tom Ryan highlights four transformational tactics that Lululemon is using to great effect:

  • Seasonal pop-ups. Additional experiences for holiday crowd control to mitigate COVID capacity constraints.
  • Virtual waitlists. Notifying shoppers when it’s their turn to enter the store. In August, nearly 400,000 guests used the technology across about 280 locations.
  • Curbside pickup. The online/offline combination offers convenience and gives Lululemon teams IRL opportunities to connect with customers.
  • Digital educators. Complement in-store assistance via live chat, email, phone and text. Video chat appointments enable live shopping remotely.3

Create unique shopping experiences

What experiences can you offer your customers? Big or small, every experience counts – from virtual shopping to private VIP events and curbside pickup, think about the tactics that will be most effective at getting your products into your customers’ hands. Let them choose how they want to shop with you.

2. Invest in assessment and agility

Thirty-five per cent of Canadians have tried a new brand during the pandemic. The proportion of groceries bought online has accelerated from two to 19 per cent. As Google’s Gauthier suggests, there’s a lot of momentum around discovery. The challenge lies in knowing what’s important and how to respond quickly before everyone else does. Google Trends and Think with Google are great sources of information and inspiration. Lean on your e-commerce partners too for expert advice and objective research on different aspects of online shopping and fulfillment.

Optimize your digital transformation by analyzing it

Gauthier recommends you find out where you currently are in your digital transformation journey and suggests three ways to get where you need to be:

Let first-party data be your guide

Use it to create better user experiences and understand who is visiting your website.

Connect your online/offline data

This will help you unlock insights and improve ROI.

Measure customer value

Assess which customers are new versus returning and high value versus churn.

Your data can indicate how to improve your navigation experiences and when in the customer journey to serve up your top products. Data helps optimize sales focus with more nuanced targeting for both acquisition and retention.

3. Measure the impact of your marketing choices

Track every channel and measure incremental value. What happens if you cut a marketing channel? How does it impact your success? Predicting customer behaviour depends on integrating both online and offline data and it’s wise to explore all the channels to learn what combinations work best for your business.

Examine the full picture of your customer journey

Last-touch attribution often hides the assists because it’s not always the channel that immediately precedes a sale that did all the work. You need to recognize all the channels that move a shopper towards the buy button.

Don’t underestimate direct mail’s role in conversion

When Land’s End cut catalogues, it lost $100 million – later discovering that 75 per cent of their active customers reviewed the catalogue before purchase. In an attempt to go online and reach customers faster, Nordstrom stopped mailing rewards notes. In-store foot traffic suffered, and earnings forecasts had to be adjusted.

Pitney Bowes’ attribution modelling quantifies the influence of media channels on the marketing mix. Based on the scenario below, removing direct mail to save budget looks like a good decision to improve cost-per-order (CPO) performance ($174) and save money (20 per cent cheaper) with the least impact to the number of orders (46). However, it resulted in fewer orders and a higher CPO – demonstrating that last-touch attribution doesn’t tell the full story.

Direct Mail$2k4$500
Direct Website$014$0

Test and measure your marketing efforts

Test different combinations and measure the results so you learn what works best for your business. Being quick to scale up your successes will keep you ahead of the game.

4. Refresh your approach and adapt as needed

New goals may require new skills, structures and processes. Do you have the right team, culture and infrastructure to achieve the kind of digital transformation that benefits your customers and your business?

Create digital experiences to meet customer expectations

Ian Rosen is Vice President of Digital and Strategy at Harry Rosen. The casualization of work is trans­forming their business and customers. Buy-in from sales advisors was key to their digital transformation.

Our advisors are bullish on our shift to online. They see it as an opportunity to extend the relationships they have with their clients.

Ian Rosen

Vice President of Digital and Strategy

Harry Rosen

A focus on digital meant changes to operations, too. He knew their clients were bench­marking them against the likes of Amazon and cared about things like delivery speed and consolidated packages. Before the pandemic, online sales represented only seven to eight per cent of Harry Rosen’s revenue. That number rose to 40 per cent in the first half of 2020 and prompted an accelerated rebuild of the Harry Rosen e-commerce website. By the end of 2020, Rosen predicts that e-commerce will almost be their biggest store.

[ For more on Harry Rosen’s digital transformation, read his interview in our latest issue of Delivering the Online World Magazine ]

[ Read more from our Think Like an E-commerce Leader blog series here ]

1McKinsey Quarterly, May, 2020.
2 Chauhan, R., “Lulu’s Digital Transformation”, Twimbit, February 4, 2020.
3 Ryan, T., “Lululemon is ready to tackle holiday crowd control”, Retail Wire, September 14, 2020.

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