Is Digital Transformation working in the Path-To-Purchase Journey? – Part 1

It is a well known fact that the emergence of online shopping has drastically changed the way we shop and besides brick and mortal stores, online shopping plays a very important role for every brand. But, is digital transformation based on what customers expect from companies or is it based on a tunnel vision of re-producing experiences that may not be relevant to the core customer base? EKN’s 2016 Profitable Omnichannel execution data indicates that only a third of retailers ‘occasionally” consider the customer perspective in devising omnichannel strategies.

In today’s digitally connected age, it is a well-established fact that the internet has become an essential part of the path-to-purchase process irrespective of whether the purchase is made online or in a store. Social media is a large influencing factor for customers to make a purchase. From traditional modes of marketing and advertising on television, radio and print media, the path-to-purchase process has now undergone a digital disruption. Such a process often relies on pre-shopping activities like searching for products online, reading their reviews on blogs, forums and shopping websites and comparing them with other products available.

Key Influences On Online And In-Store Shoppers

The actual shopping transaction may be in store or via online shopping and the post-shopping activity consists of word-of-mouth recommendations, online reviews and social media posts. Thus, the process of buying has now become a merger of various online and offline activities. Shoppers can be categorized into three segments – ones who prefer shopping in physical stores, ones who prefer shopping online and ones that prefer shopping on both channels. Thus, retailers need to keep all three types of customers in mind. Because of the shift in the way people buy products or services, it has become vital for every brand and retailer to have an omnichannel strategy to be able to reach out to customers effectively.

Furthermore, with the rise of social media savvy consumers, retailers must have a prominent presence on social networks and need to enhance customer experience and focus on customer engagement. Research conducted by EKN shows that 64% of retailers believe that the consumer’s shopping experience should be more personalized and since mediums like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow customers to directly interact with brands; they help retailers to personalize their relationship with customers.

Driving Traffic

For customers who prefer online shopping and consistently use smartphones for shopping, retailers now understand the need to create a dedicated app for mobile users. To attract users to purchase through their apps, retailers provide exclusive app only social engagement (e.g. taking selfies in the store and share images/offers with friends in real-time on Snapchat and Instagram) offers and loyalty programs. Some retailers also send promotions and deal alerts in-store via mobile apps using geo-location and opt-in data where the user needs to visit the store physically and avail those offers while making the purchase.

Research conducted by EKN shows that 52% of shoppers buy more with cross channel personalization. Thus, to enhance the online/app shopping experience, retailers need to design simple apps with a user friendly interface. This can be further enhanced with live chat assistance and alternate suggestions and product reviews on the site/app by verified buyers. Besides being convenient for shoppers, eCommerce is a very good business model for retailers to save real estate and employee cost overheads. Our next blog will continue to detail digital transformation strategies, challenges and capabilities.

About the author – June Biswas is the Digital Marketing Manager at EIQ Research Solutions (EKN Research & CarbonView Research).
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Sahir Anand, Managing VP Research & Principal Analyst at EIQ Research Solutions (EKN Research & CarbonView Research).
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