“You have arrived!”. Not only is this the now ubiquitous phrase that most of us hear when our favorite navigation app routes us around traffic and guides us to our destination, but whether you know it or not, if you’re participating in the digital world in 2018, you have arrived at the Guided Economy. If you’re operating an e-Commerce enterprise today, your ability to adapt to the expectations of the consumer that expects a guided experience can make the difference between being able to compete in an era of Amazon dominance, or having your brand relegated to Internet history.
Two major things happened in 2017 to highlight our arrival in this new era:
1. 6,700 retail stores closed — more than in any year since the 2008 financial meltdown, which saw 6,163 stores shuttered; and
2. 40 million Americans purchased smart speakers, and countless more are using these devices worldwide, along with smart watches, wearables, and apps that integrate with households, answer questions and guide us in many facets of our lives.
What’s the common thread, and how does this create an imperative for e-Commerce? What is beginning to make these new devices invaluable is that more and more they tell us something useful before we even know we need it: “It’s just started to rain, remember to bring your umbrella.”; “Traffic is building up ahead, updating your route to avoid the slow down.”; “It’s been 30 minutes since you were last active, take a break and stand up and move.” are just a few examples of how these new devices are guiding us and providing a fabulous experience in the process.
Just as the arrival of the iPhone changed consumer expectations around mobile commerce — that doing business on a phone and on the go should be just as easy as on a desktop — consumers are bringing their expectations from guided devices with them as they transact online in 2018.
Studies show that 70% of customers don’t expect to talk to someone during the course of an online journey, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need help. It just means that 53% will abandon a purchase if they can’t find quick, contextual self-help answers to the questions they have as they hesitate, or struggle to purchase or sign up for a service online.
This means that the days of designing a beautiful site, driving traffic to it and then hoping that the customer will shift channels to the phone or wander over to your FAQ page to get help are over. Merchants who are striving to create a differentiated experience in 2018 need to provide consumers with the potential answer to the question they are about to ask right where they are in the digital store.
Tactically this means moving past simply gathering data on customers to more effectively market to them, and moving toward using real-time analytics to anticipate when customers are struggling, when they have encountered an abandonment trigger, and to then engage them proactively with the relevant information to stay in the lead funnel without requiring them to shift to the phone or even to chat.
What smart devices have proved is that it’s not enough to just offer the lowest price anymore. Online merchants and service providers have to create guided experiences that are memorable, that build relationships and provide value for many months and years to come. “Alexa, please increase my conversion rate!”
Brian Strauss is VP, Worldwide Field Engineering for Moxie. His career in e-Commerce spans nearly 20 years. In that time, he’s held web development, analytics, and sales roles. Before coming to Moxie, Strauss led the Sales Engineering team at Tealeaf which was acquired by IBM in 2012.