Defining Seamlessness in the Age of the Experience

Products alone have lost their authority in the purchasing process. Today, consumers are obsessed with experiences. Buying decisions involve not only multiple devices and platforms, but also extremely high expectations on the part of consumers.

And “seamlessness” tops the list as far as customer demands are concerned. In fact, Accenture found 49% of consumers believe the best thing retailers can do to improve the shopping experience is to better integrate in-store, online and mobile shopping channels. Additionally, 89% said it is important for retailers to let them shop for products in the way that is most convenient for them, no matter which sales channel they choose.

What makes a customer’s shopping experience seamless?

A seamless shopping experience is one that integrates customer data to personalize consumer interactions and provide a continuous, connected journey as shoppers transition from one device to another, and from online to offline and back again. It puts the customer at the center of every interaction, keeps her engaged and removes friction from her path. The first step toward understanding this somewhat elusive, but endlessly important concept is to take a look at a real-life scenario.

Imagine a woman is shopping online for shoes on her mobile device while waiting in line to buy coffee in the morning. Later that day, she pulls out her tablet during lunch to continue browsing, and the retailer she is shopping with remembers where she left off, despite the device switch. Finally, when she makes it back to her desk, the shopper makes a purchase online through her desktop and picks the item up in-store that same evening.

This scenario describes the type of coherent, omnichannel experience all brands should strive for. And the fact of the matter is, customers expect this level of integration in exchange for giving brands their data and their loyalty. The following five components are crucial for achieving seamlessness at a time when the customer experience is just as important than the merchandise itself:

1. Informed

Businesses can’t achieve continuity without insight. To succeed, it is crucial to obtain a single view of the customer, or the ability to recognize consumer behavior, needs and interests across devices and channels by building holistic profiles. As data from Experian revealed, 97% of organizations are looking to achieve a complete view of the customer, but 81% of marketers struggle to achieve this end. The most crucial resource organizations must tap into to be fully informed on their customers is their own first-party data.

2. Connected

In order to recognize customers across channels and create consistency, brands must be able to collect, connect and actually act upon disparate customer data from both online and offline sources. To achieve true seamlessness, businesses must be able to connect their first-party data to each step in the customer journey, no matter how many times consumers switch devices or channels

3. Fast

It is fairly well-known how often consumers switch devices. According to Criteo, 40% of e-commerce transactions involve multiple devices along the path to purchase. But marketers also need to be prepared for how quickly they transition from one platform to the next. To really stitch together their marketing and online experiences, brands must have the ability to connect first-party data, recognize consumers across channels and personalize as quickly as their customers switch from desktops to tablets and between in-store and devices.

4. Personalized

Every step in a truly harmonious customer experience is personalized to that individual’s preferences, past shopping behavior and other touchpoints such as call center interactions. In fact, eMarketer shared research that found 81% of consumers want their online shopping experiences to be easy, customized and relevant.

Consider a customer who purchases an airline ticket on his phone. When he logs onto the airline’s website through his tablet, the site is immediately personalized with recommendations that are relevant to both his past and upcoming travel plans, such as discounts on car rentals from his favorite brand or customized recommendations based on his travel interests.

Seamlessness can go even further than that, though. Imagine this particular customer arrives at the airport to find his flight has been canceled. Rather waiting in line to speak to an agent, he can log on through his smart phone and the app will already recognize his situation and give him options to rebook quickly.

5. Device Optimized

Finally, if a business hopes to create truly continuous, omnichannel shopping experiences, it is crucial that its digital properties are optimized for varying devices spanning from smart phones to tablets and desktop computers. According to Adobe, 39% of people will stop engaging with a website if images won’t load or take too long to load. No matter the device or channel, consumers should expect a consistent browsing experience.

Businesses that adopt consistent, omnichannel strategies stand to win in the Age of the Experience. According to data from Aspect, organizations that do so achieve 91% greater year-over-year customer retention rates than those that do not. And these five components considered, it only makes sense for organizations to turn to people-based marketing, a strategy that is truly informed, connected, fast and personalized. The result is brands that are empowered to create seamless experiences and more addressable media campaigns that are not limited by device or channel.

Originally published June 02, 2016

Todd Schoenherr was formerly SVP of Product Strategy at Signal. Prior to Signal he was a VP at Guild Capital, a venture capital firm focused on media and technology companies. He also led product and marketing teams at Orbitz Worldwide and consulted for Fortune 500 clients at Accenture.Todd received a B.S. in Engineering from Purdue University and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

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