Deloitte’s recently released report, The New Digital Divide, underscores that digital devices are having a rapidly increasing influence on retail purchase behavior in today’s B2C environment.
The report, based on a national sample of 2,006 consumers, makes clear that retail marketing is at a tipping point—a point where digital channels should no longer be executed in silos, but should be considered as business imperative. Download the full report for details.
As seen in Figure 1 below, digital devices are influencing the customer experience before, during and after a purchase is made.
Retailers need to dramatically change the way they think, measure and invest in digital to keep up with growing consumer trends that show no signs of slowing down.
As the digital impact on retail accelerates, new challenges for businesses arise. How your marketing team implements the tactics listed below will determine how well your organization is able to bridge the growing digital divide.
3 Ways to Bridge the Digital Divide
Companies like Apple just get it. Their marketing, sales and service campaigns are already bridging the gap between the digital and in-store experience.
For example, at the time I was thinking about purchasing my MacBook Pro a few years ago, I had never owned an Apple laptop before. I was the proud owner of an iPhone and a strong proponent for Apple products, but had not gotten around to replacing my former, not-so-great laptop.
Below are three lessons learned from Apple’s retail strategy that successfully converted me as a customer—and for marketers, continues to bridge the digital divide.
There I was sitting on the couch scrolling through my phone when an email from Apple popped up with the subject reading, “iPhone 4 Tips and Tricks.” Apple knew from my last purchase that I owned an iPhone 4, so the messaging immediately spoke to me. Once I clicked, I saw a collection of tips and accompanying images there were extremely useful, all optimized for mobile by the way. I then pulled out my laptop and went straight to Apple’s main website. With relevant, valuable content, Apple’s marketing team successfully drove me to its site.
It’s important to note that I found initial value in a contextual piece of email content that had very little to do with a MacBook Pro. The copy didn’t explicitly say, “Buy a MacBook Pro!” or “Do you love your iPhone? You’ll love a MacBook Pro!” The iPhone 4 email took a softer, more strategic approach that led me to the website, which then led me to the MacBook Pro product page.
For years, marketers have drank the "content is king" Kool-Aid. But, successful marketing requires just as much emphasis on the context and delivery of that content. Companies that truly understand customers’ behaviors will succeed in creating quality, contextual content—content that is useful to customers when and where it’s needed most, content that’s easy to find, and content that’s consistent across all platforms and devices (digital and in-store).
Cohesive Customer Experience
After receiving the initial iPhone 4 email on my phone, I continued to do some more research on the variations of MacBook Pro laptops. Still on the purchasing fence, it was time to visit an Apple store and talk to a genius in a blue shirt. If you’ve visited an Apple store before, you know the company does a great job putting its products front and center, and in the hands of potential customers. The in-store experience was just as informative and helpful as the online experience. So much so, that I got off the proverbial fence and purchased a MacBook Pro that day.
Along the path to purchase, customers are using their smartphone, laptop and tablet to gather information leading up to a buying decision. Google’s Zero Moment of Truth study found that 90% of users turn to multiple screens sequentially to accomplish a task.
Certain devices lend themselves better to different steps along the path to purchase. For example, a customer might receive a product-specific email on their phone, spend time on their tablet researching additional information, and finally convert three days later on their laptop or in a store. To keep pace with the shift in behavior, retailers must ensure a holistic, omnichannel customer journey that enables shared customer information across devices and departments.
Behind the scenes, marketing automation software and CRMs that track a customer’s online behaviors and activity help to determine that contact’s place in the customer journey—regardless of device.
Measured Digital (and In-Store) Footprints
Digital has a profound impact on customers’ purchase behavior, whether a customer converts online or in-store. In many instances, the online experience will assist in a sale in-store. A social contact’s recommendation, digital research and support, location-based coupon, or email reminders are the types of digital cues that urge customers to convert in-person. In other instances, a customer may window shop at the store and later convert online via laptop, smartphone or tablet.
Don’t discount visitors who don’t purchase during an online session. Consider attribution models that account for the digital and in-store path to purchase. For example, find your best assists to a contact or locations page to account for those customers who may come in-store to further research or purchase.
Connect the Dots
New technology like Apple’s iBeacon has the potential to shake up the retail industry even more. iBeacons are small, Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) transmitters that provide location-based information to iOS devices. Apps installed on any iOS device can respond to the signal sent out by the iBeacon once the phone comes in range.
For retailers, this means that if consumers pass by the iBeacon you have in your store, your company app (assuming you have one) can pop up a special discount alert to draw them into the store. Depending on how iBeacon evolves and is adopted, this type of mobile-centric technology could forever change the way we shop. It’s one technology that truly bridges the digital divide.
The customer journey will continually evolve as technology enables. To succeed in a digitally-influenced retail world, you must connect the dots—from creating contextual content that your consumers care about, to ensuring a cohesive online and offline customer experience, to measuring and scoring lead activity—with a fully integrated strategy.
What other challenges will retailers face in today’s digital landscape? What other actions can marketers take to address the digital divide as business imperative? I’d love to see your feedback in the comment section below!