On Monday, June 11th, we hosted our sixth annual LYONSCG Commerce Connect client forum at the Ivy Room in downtown Chicago. From omnichannel personalization strategies to order management intricacies, the daylong event brought together some of the top minds in the industry to share insights and enable those in attendance to optimize their own digital businesses.
Throughout the event, there was a common refrain: successful digital experiences require a complete understanding of the customer’s profile, needs, and intentions. Here are some of the key takeaways that highlight just how important data is to every facet of eCommerce.
Reach Above the Low Hanging Fruit
The day began with a rousing keynote address from Brendan Witcher, VP and Principal eBusiness Analyst at Forrester, as he brought this customer-obsessed imperative to the forefront.
So often, merchants spend time and money implementing the shiny new experiences that are easiest for them to accomplish – low hanging fruit. Without the un-sexy back-end infrastructure, though, these experiences will lack the deep, contextual data required to give each customer a truly relevant and individualized experience.
Effective, personalized retail experiences are driven by rich customer profiles comprised of numerous behavioral data points, not just personas. Brendan might buy yoga pants online, for example, but this doesn’t make him a soccer mom, and treating him like a soccer mom will drive him to search for better experiences elsewhere.
This point was hammered home later in the day during the Retail Innovation Panel featuring LYONSCG EVP and Co-Founder, Dave Barr; Bill Quinn, VP of Digital Commerce at Hibbett Sporting Goods; Mike Wodtke, VP of eCommerce and Technology at Blu Dot; and Kristina Burbich, Director of eCommerce at True Religion.
The session frequently referenced Brendan’s keynote address as these eCommerce experts highlighted the need for robust, individualized data in order to deliver an engaging and enjoyable shopping experience from the first contact through order fulfillment.
For example, Bill Quinn touched on Hibbett Sports’s robust customer surveys that have guided the brand’s digital efforts since it first went online in 2017. When it came down to implementing a “reserve in store” or “buy online pickup in store” solution, customer response was split essentially right down the middle. Instead of alienating specific parts of the customer base, Hibbett decided to implement both fulfillment options. The brand didn’t just reach for the low hanging fruit, Hibbett took the time to understand its customer base and innovate its experience accordingly.
BOPIS: Fulfilling Expectations
Fulfillment is a huge portion of the customer experience – shoppers want their orders to be delivered quickly and inexpensively – and ever-rising expectations put digital merchants under the gun to keep their customers satisfied. A solution many retailers are latching onto is buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS), enabling shoppers to come into stores to pick up their orders. At the same time, BOPIS presents a host of challenges when it comes to implementation, data structures, and inventory management.
LYONSCG VP of Managed Services, Aaron Eversoll, sat down with Kate Spade VP of eCommerce Technology and Operations, Joseph Baldini, to go over the brand’s approach to BOPIS and talk more generally about the pitfalls in implementing the solution.
Most BOPIS sticking points come down to data integration: tying all the systems of record together to manage orders, inventory, and more is a complex task. Furthermore, as more and more retailers become truly omnichannel businesses, this data needs to be channel agnostic as well.
Joseph gave an intriguing example regarding Kate Spade’s BOPIS solution and managing in-store inventory. The brand’s order management system treated promotional store inventory – bags and clothes on mannequins – as orderable for online customers. The company had no desire to sell bags off of mannequins, so this required a host of data tag changes, flags, and complex development work to figure out.
The point here is twofold. First, BOPIS seems very simple, but in reality, it can be an incredibly convoluted solution to get right. Second, getting BOPIS right requires a streamlined data ecosystem. Without this, the experience suffers and customers will shop elsewhere.
Changing Expectations Around the World
Commerce is a truly global enterprise, and digital channels enable merchants to expand their businesses overseas more easily than ever before. That being said, there are numerous pitfalls when it comes to engaging international markets. Antony Comyns, Head of eCommerce at Hawes and Curtis, and Kerry Meehan, Sr. Digital Consultant here at LYONSCG, sat down for a chat about how to go global the right way.
The most important facet of international success is understanding customers at a LOCAL level. Every culture will have different expectations, whether that is in terms of mobile capabilities, shipping speed, payment options, etc. This means that brands need to do their research and ensure they can address these differences before deciding to expand.
For example, customer experience expectations around functions such as payment will differ from country to country. In the US and the UK, the vast majority of online payments are made with a credit card or through a processor like PayPal. In Germany, though, online shoppers have a strong preference for receiving and paying invoices after receiving the product. For brands expanding into Germany, ensuring they can handle this payment method is imperative to providing a native and comfortable shopping experience.
Google Cares About Your Mobile Site
When it comes to driving traffic to a retailer’s digital experience, everything begins with Google. The search giant’s core algorithm, RankBrain, determines whether pages are deemed relevant for search queries, and is the basis for SEO optimization.
So, what does this have to do with mobile commerce? RankBrain’s latest update weighs mobile experiences and shopper intent more than anything else in the page ranking process, forcing merchants to adapt their pages and content.
LYONSCG SEO expert, Taylor Brennan, and design experts, Director of UX Matt Glaze and Experience Architect Russell Schofield, took the stage to touch on these changes and took the time to dig into why they matter when it comes to UX design.
Shoppers search the web based on intent. This intent changes depending on their place in the buying cycle. Ensuring experiences and pages are built to support these stages and intent will result in elevated page rankings and visibility.
The 2018 LYONSCG Commerce Connect client forum was once again a rousing success. Clients, friends, and LYONSCG employees alike all shared in a day of industry research and best practices and certainly left with valuable insights. As retail continues to rapidly evolve before our eyes, we can’t wait to see what next year’s event will hold.