"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Kim Harris Busdieker, director of customer communications at 84.51°.
Sometimes we need to say we got it wrong and we’ll do better. That time has come for the retail industry’s in-store digital experiences. The clunky apps and websites offered today pale in comparison to what customers really want.
Retailers have quickly developed apps for isolated customer or retailer needs, but they don’t often function in an integrated way. If we think like customers instead of retailers, we can design digital experiences that enhance in-store experiences while also meeting customer needs in totality.
Digital experiences that are functional, rational and emotional are more likely to lead to repeat visits versus uninstallation.
So that we don’t create stores full of tech zombies bouncing off each other as they stare at their phones, minimal touch points and “face-down” time are crucial. Apps must be intuitive and reduce the number of steps a customer must take to accomplish a goal.
We can increase the impact on the experience by emphasizing specific functions used by customers most often and making them easily accessible, as touchless as possible and connected across pre-populated customer information. Customers don’t want to input extra data in a critical moment, such as when they are making a mobile payment or when an offer is loading.
Aligning the experience as closely as possible with the actual habits of customers goes a long way toward adding value and freeing attention for navigating and exploring the aisles.
One set of customers may want to know about what’s on sale right now because they are on a budget and need to maximize their spending for the week. Others may be searching for good deals because they love the thrill of the bargain hunt. These customer needs require different treatment and journeys through a digital experience.
Retailers should communicate with their customers often, try to understand their mindsets and needs during their shopping trips and design journeys that shoppers can choose to take each time they walk into a store.
The surest way to customers’ hearts is to solve a problem or meet a need. But their needs are diverse from customer to customer and even trip to trip for the same customer.
Typically, basic need states can be classified as the need to save time, be inspired, save money or find something. Once retailers have identified the set of basic needs customers are fulfilling, they must give them the option to choose which of those needs they want to solve right now.
This could start at home (I want inspiration for dinner tonight), at work (I want to grab a few necessities quickly), in the store (I want to shop my list in the least amount of time) or while wasting time (I want to find cool things cheap), but it always starts with a need versus a function.
Customers don’t want to take multiple steps separately to meet a single need. If retailers can connect those dots for them and make tools easy to use, we have essentially made an emotional connection by making their life easier. Customers should be able to choose different journeys for digital experiences (remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books?), and retailers can guide them along the way from there. Understanding them is the first step, and helping them is the next.
This may all sound a little fluffy in a retail world where margins can be razor-thin and monetization of the experience is crucial to support development costs. But if you design the experiences people want to use, the financial ecosystem will be there to support it, not to mention the emotional equity retailers will gain for showing customers they want to help make their lives a little easier.