Is technology a help or a hindrance to the shopper?

In a digital world where on and offline worlds are no longer separate, technology promises to make the customer experience seamless. Yet how much of this is a reality and how much of the actual customer experience is down to the capability of the marketing function to be able to manage and deliver technical solutions?

Let’s begin with a simple question: do you like shopping?

Usually, the question receives two answers. Either “it’s a chore I can do without” or “If I could shop all day, every day I would”.  Whichever camp a shopper falls in, they tend to mix online and offline shopping – even in the same retailer – and expect brands to deliver a consistent experience whatever the channel in which they’re bought. That much we all know. But how consistent is that experience? And how can technology make it seamless, frictionless, and dare-we-say enjoyable?

Technology has a significant role to play

It’s clear that technology has an important role to play in creating the customer experience. Not just from a communication channel point of view where we deliver a message, but as part of an overarching shopping experience that gives the shopper all the information they need, when they need it, with the service they demand.

The emergence of technological advancements such as Augmented Reality, Beacons, mobile and location based marketing solutions such as hyper-targeted programmatic ads, all promise to enhance the shopper experience. However, they will not make the customer experience seamless as standalone tactics. They need to be fully integrated into the whole shopping experience, or else risk being a gimmick or worse, an irritant to the shopper.

It can all get complicated. Other examples of digital disruption have actually worked against a seamless shopper experience. Phenomena such as Search, Social Media and mobile have driven a fundamental shift in the shopper’s experience from being limited and linear to being fragmented and complex. As a result, more power than ever sits in the hands of the shopper and, only through a deep understanding of their behavioural traits and the role new technology plays, can the marketer develop a seamless experience.

Tactics or technologies?

It’s a challenge for marketers. The best are responding by identifying a shopper journey that, through the appropriate use of data, can identify behaviour at each stage of the experience and consequently inform what tactics or technologies to use where, when and how. They take this journey, and focus on where they can help the shopper get easily to the point where they purchase their products.

Mondelez is an example of an organisation that has adopted this approach. Since separating from Kraft in 2012 the organisation had struggled to sustain growth and was experiencing erosion of return on investment from its media strategies. In response it prioritised ecommerce as a strategic pillar to help stimulate demand. Its approach focused on integration and partnership, rather than the establishment of a separate channel. It added ‘Buy It Now’ buttons to all online media, from brands’ product pages to social media, video advertising and CRM campaigns across 25 markets. Once clicked, shoppers are taken to one of 130 retail customer sites where they are able to make a purchase within seconds of seeing a piece of content. The journey is seamless, speedy and simple.

Is the marketing team ready and capable?

Mondelez’s approach focuses on the shopper and uses technology to streamline the experience from the brand to the retailer. In our experience, when companies begin to map the shopper experience and shorten the path to purchase, it can expose gaps in the capabilities of the marketing function and in its integration with sales. The operating model is unclear, the data flows inadequate, and the skills, processes and mindsets can come into question. Many digital engagement technologies or platforms, for example Social Media, are rapidly becoming ecommerce solutions, and many companies aren’t clear about where ecommerce sits. And many marketers lack experience in developing call-to-action plans that result in a direct sale.

But it’s exciting if you get it right. The digitisation of almost every player in the shopper channel means that the opportunities and challenges for integration have increased massively - and with that brands can find new ways to make the experience frictionless. Perhaps even tipping more reluctant shoppers into answering “If I could shop all day, every day I would”.

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