The Future of Shopping Recap: Strategies for Transforming the Customer Experience

In times of uncertainty, customers often seek brands they know. But what if you’re not one of those brands? How can you attract (and retain) new customers? In Adweek’s “The Future of Shopping” virtual event, Chris Guerra, Co-CEO at Blue Acorn iCi, and Jenna Flateman Posner, VP of Digital at Snipes, discuss top strategies to transform the customer experience.

Read the recap below or watch the recording here.

How to Attract New Customers

When asked how brands can attract new customers, Chris answered, “You need to catch a consumer before they recognize they have a need.” Most consumers will start their product hunt with a search—this is where brands can leverage content to get in front of potential customers. When consumers are in search mode, they want to know how a brand can solve their problem. This means less focus on product details and more content around why the brand was created and what unique problems they solve for their customers.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Snipes has seen a 300% growth in new customers and significant digital revenue growth YOY. “When the pandemic hit, we didn’t pause…we doubled down,” said Jenna. While most brands were pulling back on digital advertising, Snipes saw an opportunity to elevate their brand and get in front of new customers by increasing their digital ad spend. Before the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon to see hundreds of customers line up at their physical stores for highly coveted shoes. Now, Snipes sees a multitude of people line up digitally for their unique shoe selection.

Download Blue Acorn iCi’s Complete Customer Experience Report to learn how to create an unforgettable, personalized customer experience.

Where Brands Miss the Mark: Content, Loyalty, and Returns

According to Chris, most brands have treated content and commerce as two different things, never fully integrating them. Brands need to consider taking the brand story beyond the About Us page and weaving it into the entire shopping funnel. Most people think transactions are equivalent to loyal customers, but content consumption plays a vital role in building long-term relationships. Chris noted, “If you can get a consumer to come to your site to do something other than buy a product, that’s a loyalty win.”

For Snipes, the store closings gave them an opportunity to attract customers to their online store and track their behaviors. Using this data, they can go beyond one-size-fits-all loyalty programs and test different concepts based on customer segments. “Loyalty is a data capture strategy,” said Jenna. It’s all about knowing who your customers are and incentivizing them to take the next step in the journey. To ensure they capture all customer data, Snipes is replatforming their ecommerce site to Salesforce Commerce Cloud with Blue Acorn iCi.

Another area brands need to improve is the returns process. The pandemic has completely changed how customers return their orders. With limited access to physical stores, brands need to make returns as easy as possible for customers, such as including a return label in the package. Once they return an item, customers want to know what happens to it. How are brands processing the return? Is there a sanitation process? Answering key questions allow brands to build confidence with their shoppers post-purchase.

How the Pandemic Changed Customer Expectations

“Those that will win in the digital space are the ones that replicate the brick-and-mortar experience on the website,” said Chris. When you walk into a store, a salesperson typically greets you and asks questions about what you need to determine which products might work for you. When shopping online, it’s more of a “choose your own adventure” experience. Brands need to figure out how to guide customers on the site, either using data from previous visits or asking questions on the site.

Snipes is working on ways to connect the digital store to their physical stores. Especially today, not every customer wants to visit a local store, but they still want a one-on-one experience. Some ideas Jenna and her team are exploring include having store associates available to digital shoppers. “Phone calls, FaceTimes, nothing is out of the question,” said Jenna.

Will These New Customer Behaviors Stay Post-Pandemic?

Chris predicts consumers will eventually go back to physical stores for the retail experience. Jenna confirms this by noting that Snipes hasn’t seen a significant decrease in store visits compared to pre-pandemic numbers since opening the physical locations.

When asked if she had known about the pandemic before it happened, what would she do differently, Jenna said she would have pulled all valuable products from the stores to the distribution centers and invested in curbside pickup earlier. One of the biggest challenges for her team has been making sure they have products available to sell online.

Questions From the Audience

Q: What kinds of research do you use to gauge the customer experience?

A: Blue Acorn iCi looks at both qualitative and quantitative data. For example, we used heat mapping to understand where Snipes’ customers are moving through the site and test their reactions to each page. For quantitative data, we often use Google Analytics to look at common traffic patterns, and if those patterns lead to transactions. Additionally, Snipes has conducted a competitive analysis and constantly runs a/b tests on the site to enhance the customer experience.

Q: What experiences have you tested to convert brick-and-mortar loyal customers to digital loyal customers?

A: The last thing you want to do is pay to acquire existing customers. We’ve seen brands use product registration to drive in-store customers to their websites. In exchange for registering their product, offer to send an inexpensive freebie.

Q: What have you found to be successful in digital advertising during the pandemic?

A: As consumers spend more time online, you need to think about what will capture their attention. Try different mediums, like video and podcasts, and shift the messaging from product-focused to mission-focused. Leverage your brand story and values to connect with customers in a personal way.

Is your brand ready to transform its customer experience? From analytics and optimization to content management and commerce, Blue Acorn iCi can help. Reach out to us to schedule a call.

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