Digital Transformation and the Digital Path to Purchase

Stephen DeAngelis

September 28, 2016

We live in the digital age; mobile technologies have penetrated deep into most societies; and, the digital path to purchase is on the rise. There is nothing surprising nor profound about those statements; yet, they describe some of the forces shifting the landscape beneath the feet of retailers and marketers. Although the digital path to purchase has wreaked havoc on many brick-and-mortar stores, mobile technologies have also given them a touchpoint with consumers. What that means is that almost every retailer today is an omnichannel merchant. Heike Young (@YoungHeike), Content Innovation Lead at Salesforce, notes, “Increasingly, shopping is a multichannel, hyperpersonalized experience where customers expect to have service and offers tailored to them when they walk through the door or create an online account.”[1] Success in the omnichannel arena depends largely on being able to provide consumers with a positive customer experience. Google analysts call these touchpoint opportunities “micro moments.” They explain, “When people shop, their smartphone is now their go-to advisor and assistant. For retailers, this means big opportunities to be there and be useful in shoppers’ micro-moments.”[2] They go to explain how mobile technologies are redefining the consumer journey.

“Consider this: Foot traffic in retail stores has declined by 57% in the past five years, but the value of every visit has nearly tripled. What’s happening? Mobile is driving local. People use their smartphones before heading in-store — to gather ideas, research products, and then search for local information. It’s no wonder that searches for ‘near me’ have doubled in the past year. But research isn’t the only way mobile is changing the shopping experience. Shoppers buy on mobile, too. A person today might make a buying decision about a $15 tube of sunscreen, a $300 camera, or a $3,000 handbag on a smartphone while on her commute to work, as she walks the dog, or waits to pick up her son in the carpool line. Time on site for mobile users in the U.S. is down 5% year over year, however retail’s share of online purchases is still growing. Thirty-four percent of online retail purchases now happen on mobile devices. The bottom line: In this mobile-fueled shopping landscape, the retailers that thrive see the opportunity to be there and be useful for shoppers in what we call micro-moments — those intent-rich moments when people turn to their smartphones or other devices to know, go, do, or buy something.”

Fortunately, the digital path to purchase generates lots of useful data allowing retailers to discover whether or not they are succeeding. Earlier this year, Kate Maddox (@kate_maddox) reported on the conclusions of a study released by the CMO Council. The study concluded, “The top metrics being used to measure experience are tied to real business outcomes — not clicks or views.”[3] She explains:

“The report, ‘Making Personalization Possible,’ was based on a study of 179 b-to-c and b-to-b marketers. It was conducted by the CMO Council and Microsoft. In one of the key findings, the top metrics being used by marketers to measure customer experience successes are directly tied to business outcomes. The No. 1 metric is retention-rate improvement (cited by 69% of respondents), and No. 2 is acquisition-rate improvement (62%). Clicks, views and open rates are being used by 59% of marketers to measure customer experience, while other metrics include customer lifetime value (53%), upsell and cross-sell engagements (53%), and revenue-per-transaction increases (49%).”

Despite the opportunities to gain insights into customer behavior and satisfaction, the CMO Council study found “only 10% of marketers said they are doing ‘extremely well’ in measuring the customer experience and tying everything to the business outcome.” Jack Dawson (@Dawson88Jack), a web developer at BigDropInc.com, adds, “There are too many businesses today that are sitting on gold mines, namely their customer data. Customer data can provide tons of useful insights that can enable a business to: Build customer loyalty; unlock hidden avenues for profitability; and reduce client agitation.”[4] Taking advantage of data generally requires some sort of digital transformation to take place within a business. Michael Krigsman (@mkrigsman), CEO of Asuret, laments, “As marketers adopt the phrase, ‘digital transformation,’ it has lost specific meaning and descended into a limbo state of vague jargon and buzzwords. However, in the hands of a knowledgeable practitioner, digital transformation means an organization that places customers at the center of its operations and processes.”[5] Google analysts claim there are three retail “moments” that matter and retailers/marketers need to understand what they can do in those moments. The moments occur when a consumer is looking for ideas, asking for a recommendation, and/or wanting to make a purchase. They explain:

  • I-need-some-ideas moments happen when people have general awareness of the product category they’re interested in, such as living room furniture, but they haven’t yet narrowed down their choices to an exact product.”
  • Which-one’s-best moments — a.k.a. consideration moments — happen when people turn to their phones in short bursts of activity to compare prices, brands and specs, and read product reviews from trusted sources.”
  • I-want-to-buy-it moments happen when the research is done and it’s decision time. People make a choice about which brand or retailer to buy from, and whether to buy online or in-store.”

They go on to note that when one of those moments occur, retailers need to do two things:

  • Be there: Identify the most important micro-moments and commit to being there, whenever and wherever a shopper is searching, especially on mobile.”
  • Be useful. In a consumer’s moment of need, meet them by providing valuable information — whether it’s product reviews, video tutorials, or the ability to purchase right away.”

Krigsman asks, “How well do we know our audience, their concerns, and the levers that shape their decision to buy?” It’s difficult, if not impossible, to be useful if you don’t know your customer. Google analysts note, “By targeting on demographics alone, you may miss out on valuable consumers who may be in market at that moment.” Most companies have sufficient data to know their customers better. What they need is an advanced analytics platform that can help them discover the insights they need from that data. Fortunately, enterprise cognitive systems are now available that help provide those insights as well as do much more towards helping a company transform into a digital enterprise. As Young notes, “Online recommendations based on browsing activity are fantastic. So are in-person recommendations based on what customers are loving in the moment. But predictive intelligence across all touchpoints is even better.” Cognitive computing systems can provide that kind of predictive intelligence.

Krigsman asserts that the best companies “drive much stronger consumer experience, better and stronger consumer value, and storytelling.” He adds, “Ultimately that’s what drives loyalty. That’s what strengthens your brand affinity and maximizes the lifetime value.” Dawson concludes, “As you collect and use more data from your customers, you will know how to deliver relevance and value to them, and in doing so, generate more revenue for your business. Data mining is essential to all levels of business, and the entire process from customer acquisition service delivery to relationship building. You will definitely be smiling all the way to the bank at the end of it all.”

Footnotes
[1] Heike Young, “7 Trends Changing Retail Now,” Business 2 Community, 9 July 2016.
[2] Staff, “How Mobile Has Redefined the Consumer Decision Journey for Shoppers,” Think with Google, July 2016.
[3] Kate Maddox, “Marketers Are Changing Their Approach to Measuring Customer Experience,” AdAge, 9 February 2016.
[4] Jack Dawson, “5 Ways you can use Data Mining to gain Competitive Advantage for your Online Store,” Datafloq, 18 September 2015.
[5] Michael Krigsman, “Digital transformation and customer engagement,” Enterprise Irregulars, 30 August 2016.