E-commerce experts discuss how customer experience can plus up marketing strategies to connect with at-home consumers.
[CB] Carl Boutet, Chief Strategist, Studio Rx
[LG] Lindley Graham, Director, Parcels & E-commerce Enterprise Marketing, Canada Post
[RH] Rashel Hariri, Social Media & Marketing, Shopify Ecosystem
[CW] Carol Wong-Li, Associate Director Lifestyles & Leisure, Mintel
How do Canadians shop online and what has changed with the pandemic?
RH Over 2020, e-commerce growth accelerated by 10 years. With the temporary closures of brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants, more Canadians have become accustomed to shopping online. There has been an increased demand for e-commerce solutions like curbside pickup, online ordering and online storefronts. Canadians are looking for a trusted and easy shopping experience. With the rise in online competition, brands must ensure their end-to-end customer experience [CX] is reflective of their online brand persona.
CB The primary influences of online shopping are still convenience, ease of use, speed and price. The pandemic accelerated the adoption rate for online purchase of commodities such as grocery, as well as those goods considered non-essential that are only available via online channels. We’ve also witnessed a substantial increase in the rate of curbside pickup due to these factors. All this has deep impacts on how every facet of commerce operates.
LG Online shopping has reached beyond the core convenience motivator of days past. Canadians are increasingly invested in their shopping experiences and the brands they choose. Canada Post research revealed the influence of at-home consumers. Canadians are shopping more online – up 19 per cent in 2020. During the 2020 holiday season, 27 per cent purchased more online for in-store or curbside pickup – strengthening the online/offline connection. Canadians also value transparency – 78 per cent will choose a retailer that manages expectations.
CW Consumers don’t think of their shopping journey as delineated. Most are searching and purchasing across online and in-store channels. The use of mobile in stores, plus services like click-and-collect, is further blurring the lines. The pandemic has accelerated multi-channel shopping and abbreviated the overall buying experience. With uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, reliance on multi-channel shopping is something consumers have grown comfortable with, and some of these behaviours will become habits that stick moving into the future.
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What’s important when connecting with at-home consumers?
CB It’s important to look beyond the transactional and search for ways of strengthening a longer-term, recurring relationship. This means building communities rather than consumers. Focusing on metrics like customer lifetime value will help build the company culture that will bring you there. This course of action will also make your business more resilient and sustainable.
RH Buyers are looking for a clean and simple shopping experience – one that provides them with convenience and value. Marketers should assess and improve the strength of their online brand and aesthetic across all media. They must have a strong understanding of their customer segments and the various touchpoints in the customer journey that lead to conversion. Marketers need to ensure their content and advertisements have clear CTAs and that their storefronts are easy to navigate. Marketers need to have a clear POV on the buying experience.
CW Marketers need to focus on leveraging channel strengths and integrating tools to deliver an efficient and seamless experience between touchpoints. Consumers ultimately want good service from a brand. Modernizing the concept of customer service to incorporate tech and omni-channel tools is key to differentiating a brand’s ability to meet consumer needs wherever they are. Retention strategies also need to evolve, as our research shows that consumers are much less likely to cite loyalty programs as a top consideration when shopping online.
LG This is definitely the decade of the home. If your product line is oriented toward home life, lean in to that advantage and amplify it with your marketing messaging. It will help you make the right connections and drive sales. If, today, you are not geared toward at-home audiences, consider aligning or diversifying your products for greater impact. Think about how your brand is experienced by at-home consumers so you are best equipped to break through the digital noise.
How can CXD help create a unified shopping experience?
RH Customer experience design [CXD] affects everything – from a poor site setup and navigation to missed conversion triggers. It is a key component to understanding each customer’s interactions with your business, from the top of the funnel right down to making a sale and beyond. Bottom line, the CX should be prioritized above everything. Great CX creates loyalty, advocacy and repeat purchase.
LG Based on how Canadians expect to interact with retailers in a frictionless, multi-channel way, CXD is becoming essential for winning over shoppers. Lean in to the first-party data you already have and the technology at your fingertips to deliver personalized experiences across all channels. Start by locating and understanding your biggest friction points and what kind of changes will drive the most impact.
CB Investing the time and resources to properly understand customer journeys and how to best meet expectations and needs will significantly increase your chances of creating value – iterating your responses to meet always-evolving needs.
E-commerce brands that will win and break through the market noise are focused on weaving a brand story and narrative across all customer touchpoints.
Why should e-commerce brands think beyond transactional experiences?
LG Customer journeys today are more fragmented than ever before. With transactional experiences, it’s important for brands to understand that a consumer may meet you in a mix of channels. That makes consistency and connectivity an important element of your marketing strategy. From the moment you engage with them, aim to facilitate the ideal browse-and-buy experience, keep them informed until the item is in their hands and then close the loop to encourage repeat purchase.
CW At Mintel, we ground our research in what we refer to as Trend Drivers – motivations behind consumer behaviour. The value driver explains that consumers want tangible benefits when they invest their time/money. Looking at e-commerce through this lens shows that meeting consumer needs – and ultimately driving them to purchase – is about communicating the total value of a brand. This is particularly important for Gen Z as they have a more personal relationship with brands. The brands they use literally represent their identity and values.
CB Unless you have a unique and global-scale offering, this is the only course of action that will allow your business to differentiate and thrive. A transactional customer relationship lasts mere moments. A deep, community-based connection allows for a much richer, more contextual and rewarding relationship.
RH Your buyers are not one-dimensional. They expect their online shopping experiences will reflect their preferences and values. They understand their buying power and have more access to information than ever before. E-commerce brands that will win and break through the market noise are focused on weaving a brand story and narrative across all customer touchpoints. While brick-and-mortar storefronts remained closed in many cities due to the pandemic, consumers made buying decisions based on the online experience a brand offered them.
This is an abridged version of the article, “Aiming for E+,” which appears in EXPERIENCE OF MARKETING, the latest issue of INCITE.
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