Marketing has been undergoing constant growth and transformation in terms of methods or strategies applied in order to both attract customers, and provide them with a more personalized shopping experience. With the expansion of digital marketing, and especially of mobile marketing, people are developing new shopping habits, which retailers need to analyze and understand in order to stay one step ahead of their competition. Whether we are speaking of shopping malls, small online retailers, or brick-and-mortar stores, understanding the way your customers conduct their shopping is mandatory for the overall success of your business, but also for keeping up with modern technologies and marketing strategies.
According to Harvard Business Review, four years ago, 28% of in-store sales in the United States were influenced by mobile devices used before or during shopping trips. Since then numbers have been growing in favor of such methods, as customers became more and more comfortable with the benefits of shopping journeys enhanced by mobile marketing. Yet focusing solely on mobile marketing is not the answer when it comes to providing your customers with the perfect shopper journey. Thus, first we need to address the meaning of a shopper journey and what the retail industry can do to enhance it using contemporary technologies and strategies.
Defining the Shopper Journey
In 1498, a Venetian book publisher printed what is now known as the first mail-order catalogue. In 1744, the practice of printing catalogues reached the United States, when Benjamin Franklin produced a catalogue of scientific and academic books. Since then, marketing and advertising methods have advanced to a point where we can now browse catalogues online seconds after collections are launched—or even in stores, as we are doing our shopping. This, along with other methods for attracting customers, amount to creating a shopper journey which can significantly help retailers improve their industry position and achieve their goals and objectives.
When striving to drive sales, the most common mistake made by marketers in terms of defining a shopper journey is thinking that it is an experience you should impose upon your customers. In doing so, it becomes less of a pleasant journey for the customers, therefore they would search for brands which can offer them experiences custom-tailored based on their needs. Shifting the thinking from how to make customers embark on your shopper journey toward how to make your business provide shopper journey that cater to the desires of customers is the first step for better understanding these processes. But how exactly can we define a shopper journey?
Essential Aspects of a Shopper Journey
With ecommerce sales forecasted to double between 2016 and 2020, offline brick and mortar stores need to improve their strategies in order to attract more customers. A great way of doing so in our technologically-driven world is to improve their outlook on shopper journeys and what they mean to both customers and businesses. Shopper journeys are not about design and how brands choose to craft them for their customers, but about how customers choose to shop and how brands should tailor their retail and marketing strategies accordingly.
Here are the main aspects you need to have in mind when approaching a shopper journey from a marketing point-of-view:
- Understanding the behavior of shoppers across multiple platforms and channels of engaging with brands
- Planning in accordance with the approach to products of customers and their shopping needs
- Developing an online and mobile presence tailored to successfully interact with the shopper journey
- Integrating digital marketing strategies with in-store experience
- Assuring a user-friendly checkout experience based on customer feedback and modern technologies
- Making sure you are considering the post-shopping experience through feedback requests and loyalty programs
Defining the shopper journey also means keeping in mind the particular specifications of your business and how they influence the shopper journeys of your customers, but also the role they play in achieving your marketing goals and objectives.
How to Improve the Shopper Journey
As previously mentioned, approaching the shopper journey with the sole purpose of designing its steps in accordance with your requirements and having your customers follow them regardless of their own needs is a bad business call in the retail industry. That does not mean there is nothing you can do to improve the shopper journey and the results you are getting from it, but that you need to do so based on learning how your customers shop. Supporting your customers, rather than forcing them to accept a certain approach is the key to achieve the best results from the shopper journey.
Using Modern Marketing Strategies
Nowadays, consumers have a wide range of choices when it comes to shopper journeys, and finding the one best suited for their needs should not be difficult. Therefore, if you are not offering them a shopper journey that is not only personalized, but also intuitive, they will look at other brands. Yet understanding this aspect is not enough for being successful, you also need to make sure that you are supported by the strategies and technologies you are implementing.
For example, it’s not enough to know that you need to collect feedback from customers, if the channels you are using for communicating with them don’t allow for a seamless process of gathering such information. In the same way, it is not enough to know that proximity marketing and SMS marketing can help you provide a personalized shopper experience if the technologies you are using can’t support your strategies.
Make sure that all your marketing plans and strategies are tailored and implemented using modern solutions that will allow you to efficiently broadcast your messages, but also to gather useful feedback from your customers and ongoing campaigns.
Acknowledging the Importance of Straightforward Shopper Journeys
A lot of retailers make the mistake of ignoring those shopper journeys which are straightforward, and usually involve a shopping list and spending less than an hour in the store, such as day-to-day grocery shopping. Although such shopper journeys seem to not need to improvement on behalf of retailers, the truth is that if your business does not stay up-to-date with industry developments—such as installing in-store touchpoints—your customers will take their business elsewhere. As tempting as it might be to only cater to the shopper journeys that seem to bring in more revenue, don’t forget that straightforward, day-to-day shopping is what keeps the industry thriving.
Draft Your Shopper Journey Strategies with Future Adjustments in Mind
The retail industry is in a continuous transformation—new shopping trends and technologies to sustain those trends are emerging every day, and you need to always be prepared, no matter what they are. If your current strategies are locked onto a traditional approach, or one that can’t be amended with new plans, your overall activity will suffer. Save time by drafting strategies that are malleable in terms of amending them with new previsions, if necessary, and make sure that you are always implementing a multi-channel approach that can reach your customers no matter what device they are using.
Independent of your size or sector, the approach you will decide upon in regards to the shopper journey will make a difference when your customers will choose to stay loyal to your brand, recommend you to their friends—or on the contrary, choose the services of other retailers. Make sure that you fully understand the nature of the shopper journey, and your strategies are not coercing your customers in an approach they might not feel happy with, and that you are always up-to-date with industry developments. The key to a successful shopper journey is in supporting your customers and offering them what they need, as opposed to asking them for support in catering to the needs of your business. Don’t forget to implement your marketing strategies with the help of modern solutions that will allow you to have full control of all your campaigns.