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Retail’s new reality: Digital-first, fluid, and agile

RETAIL’S NEW REALITY: DIGITAL-FIRST, FLUID, AND AGILE

Repost from Avalara.

Seeking to better understand customer experience expectations of digital commerce, Avalara commissioned business intelligence platform PSFK to research key trends and technologies along the purchase journey. The resulting five-chapter report features Avalara customers, partners, and thought leaders.

What did we learn?

Consumers expect retailers to have ecommerce and mobile capabilities. Their expectations are high; they bank on researching each stage of the purchase journey online. Real-time accuracy and transparency are essential, as is a seamless experience.

There’s a lot at stake. Global ecommerce totaled more than $3.5 trillion in 2019. By 2023, online retail sales in the United States alone are expected to reach $969.7 billion.

To succeed in this increasingly crowded field, retailers must deliver an exceptional customer experience at all stages of the customer journey, from discovery to post-purchase support. Technology is a key component of success, helping to build trust and therefore loyalty.

Mobile has elevated expectations: Consumers count on retailers to deliver a true omnichannel experience, tailored to them, no matter how they shop. Retailers that sideline mobile risk alienating a growing portion of the market. Mobile sales have doubled since 2015 and are expected to account for 44% of ecommerce by 2024.

In short, retail today must be “digital-first, fluid, and agile,” as the current pandemic has highlighted. In recent months, retailers reliant on physical stores alone were often unable to connect with customers. Those with an established online and mobile presence could meet consumers where they were — at home or on the move.

No matter the circumstances, the more agile a retailer’s overall digital infrastructure, the better the experience for customers passing through these five stages:

  • Discovery
  • ‘Store’ experience
  • Shopper education and assistance
  • Payment and tax
  • Fulfillment and support

Discovery

Consumers shop across all digital platforms in today’s hyper-connected world, including through social channels as well as through Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. Managing customer relationships is key. A dynamic outreach with visual search streams and shoppable content helps retailers rise above competitors.

‘Store’ experience

To convert browsers to buyers, ecommerce retailers need more than an online storefront; the whole shopping experience must be streamlined, secure, and increasingly, curated. An adaptive homepage and social shopping options help provide the experience consumers crave, as does augmented retail. People respond well when given the option to virtually try on products.

Shopper education and assistance

Online shoppers are increasingly coming to expect personalized support at key moments, as they might receive in a brick-and-mortar store. They value well-timed expert opinions. Authentication tools and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots help customers navigate product catalogs and retailers understand when human interjection is necessary.

Payment and tax

Checkout must be seamless on the front and back end. Customers are one step closer to a purchase when their payment information is automatically (and securely) provided. Other best practices include offering one-click purchase options, digital layaway options, and in-cart optimization. Currency conversions aid cross-border sales, as do accurate tax and customs calculations. To foster trust, reveal shipping, tax, and other applicable charges up front.

Fulfillment and support

What happens after a customer clicks “Buy now” is an integral part of the customer experience. Flexible delivery options, including in-store pickup and returns, are a must in the age of near-immediate gratification. AI and machine learning can help streamline logistics and reduce costs. Customer loyalty can be fostered with product setup, ongoing support, as well as programs that encourage customer evangelization.

Exceed expectations

Exceeding expectations is key to successful digital commerce. Gain deeper understanding. Get the report.