Understanding the digital customer

Understanding the digital customer in SAP eCommerce environments

'Omni-channel', 'multi-channel', 'mCommerce', 'touchpoints' - all these terms have become widely-used in today's marketplace as companies move hastily towards catering for the digital consumer. Where did they emerge? What do they need? And do our current SAP eCommerce solutions meet those needs? 

The term "omni-channel" has become somewhat of a buzzword over the past few years. As technology has given way to an unprecedented degree of portability, statistics show that more and more people are conducting their eCommerce business via tablets and smartphones. After leading a  case study  in 2013 on the high-fashion brand, Tory Burch, Google discovered that this digital transformation has had a huge impact on customers' shopping experiences, with 78% of all their content being digested on mobile devices. If we expand this to a more general view, 52% of retail web traffic came from tablets and smartphones in the 2nd quarter of 2014 - hence the rise of the omni-channel obsession.

Case study demonstrating mobile commerce growth

Customer Traits

To say "obsession" is perhaps a little unfair; there is good reason to shift the customer-focus in line with this rising trend in eCommerce, or rather mCommerce, as it has been dubbed. Consumers these days demand a high standard of consistent, cross-channel communication and a seamless experience with every website, but with technology developing so quickly, can we ever hope to keep up? With every new generation of iPad and smartphone, and with the promise of mobile payment options looming over the eCommerce market, the word "new" in relation to the consumer may well be applicable every year, when the advancement in technology occurs.

This year's new online customer wants to take full advantage of the digital age. Gone are the days when you could get away with a dodgy connection; today, people often balance multiple devices (quite literally most evenings, sat at home with three items being used in various ways) in their search for answers to questions which they feel should be provided instantly. Operating a strict zero-tolerance policy for bad customer service, the latest in digital self-service is a 'must-have' when dealing with this tech-savvy beast. You must not just meet people's needs, but exceed their expectations in order to put yourself ahead of the competition.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

All this leads us to the question of influence; there must be a driving force behind this trend, and if we find out what that is, we can use it to our advantage in future SAP eCommerce platforms. There are three main contributors:

1. Social media – everyone is aware of how influential its networking opportunities can be, and every type of social media has its place. Facebook and Twitter provide an opportunity for consumers to 'Like' or 'Follow' their favourite brands similar to a newsletter subscription, but it's also seen as an easier way to give feedback on their experience. LinkedIn and Google+ provide the more professional backdrop for a company - a place where they can share articles on their sector or expand their specialised network.
2. YouTubers – this avenue is crucial for next-generation consumers. People turn to YouTube as a means of clarifying that the choice they are making is the right one; it's a person rather than a testimonial on a website, and a chance to comment on what they have seen or have a conversation with other subscribers beneath the video. Okay, so there are a lot of cat videos too, but you get the idea.
3. Online review sites – pretty much every purchase I make is made after consulting the consumer-nerds on review sites if it is unfamiliar territory. It's the same principle as YouTube reviews, only without the gimmicks. There are many companies who set up their own profile for review sites to respond to any comments; if you're a hotel chain for example, this would be the perfect opportunity to reply to any allegations. A study conducted earlier this year by Emprise (a leading support services provider) found that for every one bad review, comment or tweet, a hotel can lose up to 30 customers.

A Cause for Celebration?

Coming back to the case study on Tory Burch, the technology they have adopted has enabled them to implement digital interaction between the online sphere and the in-store experience, by linking their multiple data points together. In particular, their R&D has taken huge steps forward.

Google stated that store traffic from 2010 to 2013, saw a 38 billion footfall drop to 17 billion, giving a 55% drop, however, retail sales were up from $681billion to $783billion. Offline sales were up 9%, while eCommerce had a total net gain of 15%. The most telling piece of information we can get from this is that now when people enter a shop, their habits have changed; they are far more purposeful and they know what they want (very much like the mobile consumer we were discussing earlier). They also sighted YouTubers as a tremendous influence; they help people to see the brand but also help the team to understand why and how people react to their content in a certain way.

Correlation between store traffic and retail sales

Mike Gerisi, CIO for Tory Burch, commented: "Digital has created a massive revolution over the past decade. When you look at what's happening in terms of a seamless experience across channels, we want to find ways of tailoring the experience so that someone feels that it's intimate. One thing that Tory constantly talks about is this concept of genuine, authentic relationships, and we don't want to be a transaction-driven business - we want people to feel like they are part of a lifestyle brand."

So, it seems like the only way to go is the seamless-experience route, for your new breed of customer. With a better and more constant stream of information online, it takes the pressure off the sales assistants, who are able to give enhanced customer service seen as they are better informed of what they can buy, and it helps those at HQ to see what direction the customer base is leaning towards. That way, every element of the business can react swiftly to deal with an increasingly complex and technology-focused future.

If you'd like to find out how you can keep a hold on the digital customer, why not take a few minutes to view our  Omnia eCommerce  solution page.