How to Turn the Crazy Path to Purchase into ONE Seamless Customer Experience

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May 28 2015, Posted by Lisa Cramer

In one word… your customers’ path to purchase today? Crazy! But, to provide the seamless experience your customers seek, it is critical that you successfully integrate channels along this crazy path to purchase. Some call this omnichannel, but we believe it’s beyond “the buy” across web-based devices and in store. It’s more about omnipresence, or being hyper-relevant 24/7 based on where customers are, what they are trying to do and who they are.(Want to learn more about omnipresence? Click here.)

So, where do you even begin? First, let’s look at the channel combinations that need to be understood and documented along the path to purchase.

We understand that in general the path to purchase consists of 3 phases—pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase. And, your channels must work in concert to support these 3 phases to give the customer a seamless experience. Below are just a few of the scenarios:

  • Integrate online research and in-store buying (webrooming)
    For a number of purchases, the path to purchase starts online by researching different products, options and prices. However, when it comes to the actual purchase—that happens in store. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 94% of all retail sales took place in physical stores last year.
  • Integrate mobile research with in-store buying
    More and more customers are using mobile to do research. While at home, while out at a store or at another location, customers are looking up product information, checking store inventory, getting price comparisons, accessing social media, etc.
  • Integrate online buying and in-store pickup
    We continue to see major retailers and brands integrating online buying and pickup at store or home delivery. From Amazon’s new 1-hour delivery services to Nordstrom’s new curbside pickup, some brands are already integrating these processes or phases along the path to purchase.
  • Integrate in-store research and online buying (showrooming)
    Although this combination of channels was once thought of as bad by retailers and brands, the reality is, if customers want this experience, then it’s best to encourage and embrace it.

So, how can you integrate these channels into a single customer experience? This question is certainly bigger than a blog post, but the following questions will help you evaluate where you should focus your attention:

  1. Do you have a view of the customer’s previous behavior and purchase history, including where they did research, where they made the purchase, how they received the product?
    • Are you able to capture your customer’s behavior from online research? Can you associate that with an individual and store it to start building the 360-degree view of the customer?
    • Is it possible to identify the individual when they enter the store and connect that to their online behavior (use of beacons and mobile)?
    • If so, are you giving them a highly personalized and hyper-relevant in-store experience that is complementary of your web experience? For example, associate assistance for specific items they were surfing online to specific content shown on screens and recommendations based on purchase history.
  2. If mobile allows you to connect online and offline phases of the path to purchase, what compelling reasons do you give your customers to download your apps AND use it regularly?
    • Are you offering your customers valuable content that’s not just about the product, but about the experience, space and opportunity? For example, REI’s membership program focuses on bringing quality opportunities to adventure seekers, which is just the audience REI is targeting. It gives members in-store discounts on necessary gear, a 10 percent annual member dividend and deals on trips and outdoor skill-building classes.
    • If they download the app, are you monitoring them in store and connecting mobile with the in-store experience—barcode scanning, location mapping, real-time offers, etc?
  3. Are you offering your customers convenience and near real-time response? Consider the following:
    • Are you making sure your online and in store channels aren’t competing? Are you prices/promotions the same on both? Is your message the same on both? And, are you supporting purchasing on both, including mobile? After all, it’s not about ensuring they purchase just online or in store, it’s about ensuring that they purchase at all.
    • Can you economically provide services that enable online buying and pickup in store?
    • Do you offer strong customer service and post-purchase support videos to help customers use your products as intended once they take it home? And, are you utilizing a mix of customer service contact points, such as social media, live chat, email, phone or in-store assistance?
    • After the sale are you taking advantage of opportunities to extend “buyers’ joy” or gracefully reverse “buyers’ remorse” to ensure consumer perceptions of your brand stay positive?

The reality is, it’s time to stop thinking exclusively about the “buy”—and time to start thinking more about the journey that got shoppers there. That’s the secret to creating one seamless customer experience.

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