The primary challenge every commerce business faces, whether online or offline, is acquiring, converting and retaining customers. This challenge persists through the evolution of technology. However, the changing nature of technology is altering how retailers approach the challenge. Today the biggest technological shift in commerce is coming from the growing use of social media and mobile devices. The average user spends about 28% of their time online using social media networks, 2014 saw the first case of mobile internet consumption surpassing that of desktop, and 60% of social media use is done through mobile devices. Brands need to embrace this changing technology or risk withering away.
This shift in the way customers consume information is forcing retailers and brands to alter how they reach their target market. They can no longer rely on traditional methods of advertising because consumers, especially millennials are not paying attention and are not as easily persuaded by traditional methods.
Before this shift in technology a typical purchase cycle came down to a consumer deciding they needed a product, going to a store that most likely carried that product and purchasing it. Now the process is much more complex. Because of the large consumer market, buyers don’t usually have a specific product or brand in mind. Instead, they are thinking about a category such as: a vacuum cleaner, a laptop, or a car. The purchase cycle then starts with research; 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying. This not only gives consumers better information about the product category they intend to buy into; it helps them narrow down the brand they want, the specific product they intend to buy, and where they plan to buy it, whether online or in a brick and mortar store.
Although the purchase cycle typically starts online, brick and mortar takes home the biggest chunk of sales (about 94%). However, even in brick and mortar digital use still plays a role in the shopping cycle as a consumer takes steps to purchase. Consumers use their phones to find the address of the store, comparison shop, and utilize digital coupons. With the prevalence of mobile usage, these actions are happening while the customer is standing in your store; online and offline are converging in your dressing room.
Consumers are going to continue this trend and if you don’t meet them in the mediums (online, social media, mobile) they frequent, your competitor will.
So how can you meet your customers online, on social media and on mobile devices to effectively acquire, convert, and retain them?
Utilize social login to give consumers an easier way to create an account on your website, while you collect more demographic insights about them. Use user generated content to engage your customers and give them compelling information and insights about your products as shared by their fellow shoppers. Finally use mobile responsive loyalty programs to cultivate repeat purchasers and convert them into loyal customers.
The lesson of changing technology is always the same; if you don’t adapt, you don’t survive. This holds true for commerce. Your customers’ shopping behaviors are changing and you have to adapt quickly to ensure they still see your brand, engage with it, and come back to become loyal customers.