Connecting In-Store and Online Retail Experiences

Customer Experience

The main chal­lenge now is to con­nect the online and in-store cus­tomer expe­ri­ences. Although e‑commerce has grown, the retail store is still king. Cus­tomers want to vis­it the store and try the prod­ucts for them­selves.

Online cus­tomer expe­ri­ences have more influ­ence than ever on in-store pur­chas­es. A 2015 For­rester study found that 45 per­cent of offline sales will be web-influ­enced by 2020. A full 84 per­cent of cus­tomers turn to mobile devices to help them reach buy­ing deci­sions in-store.

To find out more about how online and offline cus­tomer expe­ri­ences con­nect for retail­ers in 2017, I caught up with Adobe’s indus­try sec­tor lead for retail in Europe, Vijayan­ta Gup­ta, and put some ques­tions to him.

Gup­ta is the head of prod­uct and indus­try mar­ket­ing and indus­try strat­e­gy at Adobe Sys­tems Europe. He leads Adobe’s indus­try-spe­cif­ic, go-to-mar­ket ini­tia­tives and Adobe Mar­ket­ing Cloud prod­uct mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives across Europe, the Mid­dle East, and Africa.

JB: Let’s dive straight in here. What does cus­tomer expe­ri­ence mean for the retail indus­try in 2017?

VG: It means the ways in which cus­tomers per­ceive their inter­ac­tions with retail­ers online, in mobile, and in brick-and-mor­tar stores, and how they per­ceive the con­nec­tions, or dis­con­nec­tions, between those touch­points.

JB: What then do you see as the main cus­tomer expe­ri­ence chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties in the retail sec­tor in 2017?

VG: The main chal­lenge, right now, espe­cial­ly for mul­ti­chan­nel retail­ers, is def­i­nite­ly to con­nect the online and in-store cus­tomer expe­ri­ences. A lot of com­pa­nies have great e‑commerce web­sites, but many cus­tomers use those sites not to buy online, but to give them ideas about what to buy in-store. Although e‑commerce has grown, the retail store is still king. Cus­tomers want to vis­it the store and try the prod­ucts for them­selves. If they like a prod­uct they see online but it’s not there in the store—or if it looks or works dif­fer­ent­ly than they expect­ed from the website—then the com­pa­ny has prob­a­bly lost the sale. But this real­i­ty also offers a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for retail­ers who can con­nect the online and offline experiences—letting cus­tomers try out prod­uct vari­a­tions and see inter­ac­tive close-ups online, then find exact­ly what they’re look­ing for in the store. That con­nec­tiv­i­ty pro­vides a huge oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate delight.

JB: What are the ben­e­fits for retail­ers who can achieve that con­nec­tiv­i­ty? Any use cas­es that spring to mind?

VG: Yes, actu­al­ly. We recent­ly helped the retail chain Spar inte­grate its online store­front with in-store offers. The com­pa­ny had a lim­it­ed abil­i­ty to cen­tral­ly store and man­age prod­uct images and design ele­ments, which meant its mes­sag­ing often had an incon­sis­tent look and feel, so its cus­tomers weren’t as engaged as they could be. We lever­aged the exist­ing inte­gra­tion points between Adobe Expe­ri­ence Man­ag­er and Hybris to merge Spar Austria’s cor­po­rate web pres­ence and online store­front. We helped the com­pa­ny to not only pro­vide more engag­ing con­tent on the web­site, but also deliv­er real-time online offers to cus­tomers who were shop­ping in-store, lead­ing to a major increase in engage­ment and pur­chas­es.

JB: So by cre­at­ing a more con­sis­tent online expe­ri­ence, and mak­ing the online con­tent con­sis­tent with the in-store expe­ri­ence, Spar was able to dri­ve more pur­chas­es both online and in-store.

VG: That’s exact­ly right. Anoth­er real­ly cool exam­ple is what we did with the French cos­met­ics com­pa­ny L’Occitane. The com­pa­ny was pro­vid­ing sol­id cus­tomer expe­ri­ences online and in its brick-and-mor­tar stores, but it was still treat­ing these touch­points as two sep­a­rate chan­nels, rather than as com­po­nents in a sin­gle uni­fied cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. We used Adobe Cam­paign to help the com­pa­ny inte­grate first- and third-par­ty cus­tomer data, and gain a con­sis­tent, 360-degree view of each cus­tomer. These robust cus­tomer pro­files enabled L’Occitane to cre­ate per­son­alised cus­tomer expe­ri­ences that would seam­less­ly con­nect online and in-store inter­ac­tions, and turn cus­tomers into cross-chan­nel shop­pers. Cus­tomers now receive offers on a local or region­al basis, based on their online and in-store activity—and those offers dri­ve pur­chas­es both on the company’s web­site and in its brick-and-mor­tar stores.

JB: This reminds me of how, a few years ago, retail­ers were focus­ing on con­nect­ing all their online chan­nels to pro­vide a uni­fied cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. Now they’re real­is­ing that the in-store expe­ri­ence also needs to be con­nect­ed seam­less­ly with all the oth­er chan­nels.

VG: Right. That’s exact­ly what these retail­ers are work­ing to achieve right now, and many of them are already reap­ing the ben­e­fits of this trans­for­ma­tion.

JB: What does the imme­di­ate future hold, in terms of con­nect­ed cus­tomer expe­ri­ences in the retail sec­tor?

VG: I see this as break­ing down into four key cat­e­gories: mer­chan­dis­ing, per­son­al­i­sa­tion, con­ve­nience, and engage­ment. In terms of mer­chan­dis­ing, cus­tomers will demand more con­trol over how they inter­act with retail­ers. In oth­er words, they’ll expect shop­ping to feel more like enter­tain­ment; it should be a plea­sur­able expe­ri­ence in and of itself, on every chan­nel. This also ties in with per­son­al­i­sa­tion, which is going to become more proac­tive. Retail­ers will go beyond just pro­vid­ing per­son­alised prod­uct rec­om­men­da­tions, and will start to tai­lor visu­al mer­chan­dis­ing and in-store screen dis­plays around cus­tomers’ pre­vi­ous activ­i­ty and geolo­ca­tion info. We’re also going to see more inno­va­tion in terms of con­ve­nience. For exam­ple, 24-hour self-ser­vice kiosks, cen­tralised dig­i­tal shop­ping inter­faces, and oth­er tech­nolo­gies will give cus­tomers more choic­es in terms of how, when, and where they’ll inter­act with brands. And all three of those areas feed into engage­ment. Retail­ers will begin offer­ing more engag­ing prod­uct demon­stra­tions, and will give in-store asso­ciates more resources for mak­ing real-time per­son­alised rec­om­men­da­tions to cus­tomers. Every­day shop­ping will begin to feel more and more like inter­act­ing with a whole staff of per­son­al concierges.

JB: It sounds like, as in so many oth­er sec­tors, the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is going to become more cen­tral than ever for retail­ers.

VG: That’s def­i­nite­ly true. All these tools and tech­nolo­gies are going to focus increas­ing­ly on pro­vid­ing the best pos­si­ble shop­ping expe­ri­ence for the cus­tomer, across all chan­nels.

JB: I think that sums it up per­fect­ly. Thanks for join­ing me today, Vijay, and for shar­ing your insights on cus­tomer expe­ri­ence for retail­ers in 2017.

VG: Thanks Jamie. By the way, read­ers who want to know more about the pri­or­i­ties in retail for 2017 and beyond as well as learn fur­ther details about cus­tomer expe­ri­ence in retail should def­i­nite­ly read the research we recent­ly pub­lished in con­junc­tion with Econ­sul­tan­cy regard­ing dig­i­tal trends in retail, and they can read my per­spec­tives on it in my blog post.

Join me next time, when I’ll be inter­view­ing Adobe’s indus­try sec­tor lead for the auto­mo­tive indus­try, explor­ing what cus­tomer ser­vice means for auto­mo­tive mar­keters in 2017. See you there!

Customer Experience
Jamie Brighton

Posted on 05-24-2017

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