Adobe Digital Trends 2022 – Retail Focus report, which was based on Adobe’s annual survey, highlights the evolution of the retail customer experience, and emphasises the importance of creating a strong digital customer experience that is, ideally, ahead of customer expectation.
Although digital has been fundamentally present in the past decade, the impact of the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of retail companies. Businesses were forced to rely almost solely on digital and rethink their engagement with customers. Which simultaneously, reiterated the need to be adaptable and agile. The report concludes that companies who can optimise technology and digital data will be able to act on customer insights and therefore “be better placed to achieve customer-centric experience innovation – and sustain business growth”.
The nature of digital, combined with the pandemic, emphasised the need for businesses to be agile and vigilant to adapt to their ever-changing environment. However, the need to have a strong solid foundation of skills, technology and organisational structure remains. Businesses need to be able to adapt to customer’s expectations and use technology to execute this. Companies that have quickly adapted to their changing environment and customer expectations have been successful at retaining customers. A prime example is Door Dash, and other rapid delivery services, that were able to meet the need of speed and convenience for their customers during the pandemic. With only “57% of retailers keeping the pace with customers”, companies need to increase their ability to adapt and stay on consumer trends in order to retain their customers.
Blending Online and Offline Retailing Data
The past two years have been explosive for online retailing, and it will only continue to grow. Businesses will be required to optimise digital, as well as offline retailing, to create a strong customer experience. This will require substantial investment in appropriate technologies, data integration and touchpoints, for example digital self-service. In fact, 85% of retail marketers cited digital self-service as the most important tool to meet customer expectations online. Although digital is prominent, brick and mortar stores are still prevalent, and therefore a blended approach is the key to success for customer experience. Home Depot exemplified this as they combined data from both digital and in-store to analyse the customer journey and create their customer experience. They have since increased their net sales by 9.8% year-on-year in 2021. The report suggests that there is ample opportunity available to businesses, no matter what size, to upgrade the customer experience by using their data and technology more effectively.
The report highlights how the termination of third-party cookie data would significantly halt the ability for companies to gain insights on customer behaviour. Regardless, gathering, analysing, and acting on marketing insights is the key to understanding consumers and creating a customer experience. Therefore, companies will need to prepare for this post-cookie environment. This preparation will involve implementing sophisticated ways to gather and use existing customer information, and to have a “quality over quantity” mindset when it comes to gathering new data. They will also need to rely on contextual and creative targeting, as well as taking cues from social media audience modelling. Consequently, companies will face a barrier from consumers to share data, and the solution to overcome this, is to be explicit with promising the privacy of their data.
Artificial Intelligence and Employees
The report suggests that to strengthen the digital experience beyond customer expectations, companies need to first focus internally on their employees. By understanding the role and responsibilities of each employee, companies can implement technologies to support them and maximise their efficiency. Artificial Intelligence technologies and machine learning can be implemented to complete rote activities so that employees can complete higher value asks that solve customer pain points and improve the customer experience.
The Digital Trends report calls for companies to focus on upgrading their technology and digital capabilities to not only, maximise their operational and employment efficiency, but to upgrade their digital customer experience, beyond expectations, which will enable them to achieve sustained growth.