Despite the variable nature of buying habits from country to country, consumers worldwide all agree on one aspect: the buying experience. As consumer trends continue to evolve, the typical buying journey has taken on an omnichannel trajectory. The traditional buying process has seen its heyday, and brands are now recognising the urgent need for innovation in the ecommerce industry. With this in mind, brands are in search of opportunities for value creation, customisation and to establish emotional connections with their customers.
Brands that rely on their offering as the sole differentiator in the buying process no longer make the cut when it comes to the buying experience. Consumers, particularly millennials, have a high expectation for brands to adopt a captivating and customised approach to their individual buying journeys. A study by Qubit reveals that 75% of consumers believe that receiving recommendations based on their previous purchases is an important factor in the buying journey. Attracting and retaining customers therefore requires a buying experience that focuses on each individual customer’s needs. As retailers are called to be more reactive, major brands are going through a period of reinvention, seeking new solutions and technologies to create a more innovative buying experience for their customers.
The Evolving Consumer Buying Journey
How are brands embracing innovation and reinventing themselves? Over the last few years, as the digital surge has been taking over the retail world, brands have increasingly been investing in startup accelerators and incubators. They provide spaces for experimentation, innovation and encourage the reinvention of developed markets, such as the ecommerce industry. These spaces foster working environments geared for generating forward-thinking solutions that cater to the evolving consumer buying experience.
Furthermore, faced with increasingly demanding consumers, brands are pushing the limits of consumption in both online and offline commerce, which is essential to produce a common strategy. When it comes to making purchases, consumers now have a high expectation for immediacy. The purchasing path is becoming mobile first and increasingly local, which can be seen by the development of Google Local Inventory Ads, Facebook Dynamic Ads for Retail and Beacons. According to a study by Nielsen, over 50% of consumers use mobile devices to search for information. Consumers are also turning to their smartphones to communicate with brands via chatbots in order to receive immediate responses and satisfy their searches.
These new Artificial Intelligence technologies are becoming indispensable in the buying journey, bringing together the online and offline worlds in order to create a single connected business. Industry players, such as Amazon, are therefore adapting their strategies in order to cover all their bases and gain the maximum ground space possible. After announcing the launch of Amazon Go a few months ago, the marketplace recently purchased the supermarket chain Whole Foods Market.
At the same time, digitalisation is bringing a new lease of life to physical stores, which continue to be the main sales channel in retail. In a few years time, we could be seeing intelligent carts replacing our trusted trolleys, and humanoid robots will be guiding us through supermarket aisles. Virtual and Augmented Reality will allow us to live these experiences without having to leave the comfort of our own sofas. Originally dedicated to augmenting gaming experiences, these technologies are progressively seeping into the retail industry. For example, Ikea announced its partnership with Apple to develop an Augmented Reality application that allows users to view IKEA furniture and virtually position the furniture in their own homes. Ordering products will soon be simple task with further innovation in technology such as Amazon Dash Buttons or Amazon Echo.
While a number of innovations are still in the experimental stage, the consumer buying journey continues to transform, and market players can no longer ignore it.