Zero One: Retailers Miss on Mobile, CX
Retailers should be in the vanguard of the digital economy, but they’re looking more like the canary in the coalmine – that is, they’ve become the test case for an otherworldly environment filled with opportunity and danger.
And the canary isn’t singing these days.
Retailers were supposed to usher in digital transformation, showing other industries how to wield mobile, social, email and web to drive sales. They were expected to bring analytics and artificial intelligence to mountains of customer data, unearthing valuable insights about individual shoppers.
Most importantly, shoppers looked to retailers to meld the physical and digital worlds and create a futuristic customer experience.
But a great customer experience hasn’t really happened. A Forrester study ranking the digital customer experience, or CX, of top retailers this year found that the overall retail industry didn’t improve. In fact, CX scores fell a percentage point from last year.
Retailers were supposed to clean up email inboxes, replacing spam with personalized emails sent to customers when they were ready to receive them. The idea was that state-of-the-art marketing automation tools and data-driven customer profiles and journey mapping would sharpen marketing messaging.
That didn’t happen, either.
“Nearly 90 percent of organizations say they are focused on personalizing customer experiences, yet only 40 percent of shoppers say that information they get from retailers is relevant to their tastes and interests,” Forrester analyst Brendan Witcher told The Wall Street Journal. “The ugly truth is that most retailers haven’t done the unsexy work of understanding how to use the data.”
Divined to be mobile masters, retailers also failed on this front by serving up mobile web experiences that crashed and burned, Forrester says. Hindered with latency problems, mobile web experiences are little more than desktop versions. Online cart abandonment rates remain stuck at 68 percent. Omnichannel integration is still relatively uncommon.
To be fair, a handful of retailers are doing it right, such as The Home Depot, Wayfair, PetSmart and Etsy, Forrester says. For instance, The Home Depot’s streamlined mobile experience offers content optimized for mobile (including video) and mobile-friendly services such as single-page checkout and live chat.
For most retailers, though, there’s a lot of work to be done and time is against them.
There’s no question the digital economy impacts the retail industry greatly. This year, 51 percent of retail sales have been digitally impacted, which includes online retail sales and digitally influenced sales, according to Forrester.
Put another way, digitally impacted retail sales were $1.83 trillion.
Over the next five years, mobile digital influence in the retail industry will increase dramatically. By 2022, digitally impacted retail sales will grow to 58 percent, with smartphones influencing 93 percent of total digital-influenced retail sales, Forrester says.
If they’re not buying directly on their smartphones, customers are researching products and comparing prices.
“After a certain point, online research starts to cannibalize offline retail sales, where customers are buying online even from inside the stores,” says Forrester analyst Satish Meena in a research note.
Tom Kaneshige writes the Zero One blog covering digital transformation, AI, marketing tech and the Internet of Things for line-of-business executives. He is based in Silicon Valley. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.