Consider, with the sheer increase of online browsing and transactions taking place today, the notion that ‘digital engagement’ happens between retailer and consumer is through a sheet of glass. No matter what device, time or location - a conversation is literally happening at that moment the consumer comes face to face with the ‘digital’ store-front. On one side of the screen is the whole retailer team of trading, merchandising, marketing and customer, seeking to convey the most relevant products- and on the other - the consumer with all their emotional drivers (available time, cashflow, desire, social acceptances, locale).
From another perspective - the 4P’s (Price, Promotion, Product, Position) meeting the 4B’s (buying journey, budget, benefit and probably the most critical, behavioural economic).
Getting the balance right is the hardest part of Retail. We have already seen how segmentation can be overbearing, costly and cumbersome leading to failure (link). There is debate about individual experiences being ’the best’ option (but how do you orchestrate and test them all) and we have seen static experiences yield accentuated bounce rates. So, what’s the answer?
To start with, there is no ‘holy grail’ otherwise there would be no need to evaluate things - however there are some clear considerations that can help influence behaviours (both sides of the screen).
Google is clearly driving more and more ‘behaviours’ to deepen the search criteria and by-pass all the noise to the most relevant outcomes. Consumers can simply be impatient with the amount of time it is taking to find and filter through the product range or be very ‘surgical’ with their search terms and find long-winded results sets too much to comprehend but both examples demonstrate how too much ‘noise’ affects the 4 B’s.
The paradox of choice is now fully tested and proven; which maps directly to ‘noise’. An overload of options/choices just begins to create a flustered feeling from a browser; one that forces the impatient trait and yet businesses are trying to extend their ranges more and more in an attempt for business growth. This is where key technical solutions can bring together the right balance of automation and ‘strategic instinct’ to help reduce the impact of ‘too much choice’ but rather bring together a more relevant product subset and deliver an enhanced experience.
In physical bricks and mortar retail settings, we know that once a campaign/promotion is set up it stays there until its end of life, whether that be sell-through rates or timelines, but it cannot be any more dynamic and receptive to who is walking past at any moment. Everyone sees the same thing and hence volume of footfall creates the driving force. In digital retail, technology advances have also helped businesses reconsider how they create the final experience (micro front-end); rather than at a page level, it is now a set of components that come together at run-time (including all context and historical inputs) that deliver to the needs of both sides of the screen.
These technology advancements often focus around a more de-coupled architecture and so the makeup of a page can come from many systems that do their job well, can all take the same inputs and return a more relevant response. This method reduces the complexity of being tied to one system and the restrictions that come from that.
The key for the business team is to be able to preview how these experiences may look even in a decoupled architecture and that is where a Content Management System can act as a marketing hub, bringing together all the components in preview so experiences can be seen/tested. If you look at the 4B’s we spoke of earlier (buying journey, budget, benefit and behavioural economic) - then having a birds eye view of the end experience becomes more critical. There are hundreds more entry points now to a buying journey. This means that the retailer needs to clearly convey the benefit of a purchase based on the specific needs and intent of each individual consumer.
You cannot however ‘preview’ behavioural economics; this is the outlier that every business seeks, however if you are offering a relevant product, at a fair price and with compelling supportive content, the likely motivation to convert is there.
One of the key components of an ‘Adaptive’ experience is how consumers navigate and browse their way around the site. More commonly than not, consumers start their product discovery journey through direct search which is fast evolving into both visual and spoken search. However, other visual clues can also help, whether it be an internal promotion, the site navigation and how products are categorised or something as simple as a recommendation window. All these can be adapted by the retailer, but this is most effective when they have a context to work with. Trying to second guess shopper intent is like trying to be a mind reader, so don’t put off consumers with guesswork but rather use systems that are adaptive to capture and apply as many inputs as they can to deliver the best buying journey.
Because of the previous page type mentality; often the experience of digital commerce is overloaded with Product results first or headed by promotional banners. Now the context can change and offer a more ‘shop assistant’ type experience where content and product come together to help answer the questions in the consumer's mind and this is where it all comes together.
What Magnolia and Attraqt are bringing retailers now is precisely this agile, de-coupled blend of science and ‘strategic instinct’ to not only deliver stronger metrics but give pace back to the engine behind the retail side of the screen. No more release cycles that put IT teams in front of Marketing/Trading and no more rigid methodologies like the old school page first templating. The shift is akin to email clients that used to be driven by folders and storing; now Google once again has shifted the model to one mass hub where search is the leader in finding anything and indexing and tagging create a new dynamic norm. The 4P’s now become 5, where ‘Pace’ is added to the Marketing mix.
On the other side of the screen, consumers have better conversations as their natural actions generate a more thought-provoking response and so their 4 B’s increase to 5, where ‘Bond’ becomes the clear differentiator - the connection of both minds.