Online customer shopping experience is at the center of Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) brand strategy. According to a survey by Forrester Analytics, 74 percent of global business and technology decision makers at retail and wholesale firms say that improving customer experience is a top business priority over the next 12 months. Consumers’ expectation of personalization is driving brands to gain a competitive edge by leveraging the latest innovative software tools. The following e-commerce strategies are leading the way on how brands engage with customers.
1) Immersive Technology
Improving customer engagement using immersive experiences is crucial for brands, such as Jewelry sellers, that sell products that benefit from personalization. Augmented Reality (AR) software enables an immersive experience by allowing consumers to virtually try on jewelry before purchasing. Forecasts by Orbis Research suggest that the global online jewelry market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of over 15 percent during the period 2018-2022. AR software for retailers provides an opportunity for sellers to increase online sales and can also be used as a tool to collect data on consumer preferences and improve suggestions for similar products.
2) Artificial Intelligence
Search results affect an e-commerce customer experience on brand-owned websites. Results that are too broad drive customers away. Artificial Intelligence software that uses natural language processes (NLP) can improve customer experience by narrowing down search results. NLP also enables chatbots, which provides personalized customer support without a live person. Gartner predicts that by 2020 more than 85 percent of customer interactions will be managed without humans and over 50 percent of medium to large companies will use chatbots for customer support. Chatbots are predicted to be the number one consumer application of AI in the near future.
3) Omnichannel Optimization
Consumers who shop online expect brands with physical stores to provide a seamless service across all channels. According to a Forrester analytics survey, 67 percent of US online adults who have used “Buy online, pick up in-store”, also expected to be able to pick up their merchandise in-store within two hours. Brands that sell in-store and online can leverage their omnichannel capability by integrating inventory across channels. Department stores and traditionally wholesale brands that are leveraging DTC sales have built robust technology infrastructure for logistics and supply chain systems.
4) Social Content
Gartner L2 evaluated over 600 brands across 14 sectors on content and commerce and found that consumers who came to branded websites through social media content, spent more time on the site than if they came from an organic search. Producing consistent social media content has proven to be the best way to engage customers. With 68 percent of adults in the U.S. using Facebook and over 70 percent of 18- to 24- year-olds using Instagram, social content is pivotal to online strategy in driving traffic to a DTC website. Brands that leverage digital marketing content and continuously send email messages with content about new inventory and special sale offers have a competitive advantage.
Continued demand from consumers for personalization will accelerate the adoption of AR and AI. As these technologies mature, they will become an e-commerce industry standard. Shoppers surveyed by Forrester showed a preference for purchasing directly from a brand-owned website versus third-party vendors because of trust and a consistent return-policy. Brands can leverage this preference with their omnichannel capability by engaging consumers across digital channels and in-person sale points, with social media content, email marketing, and offering in-store pick up. Engaging with customers on multiple channels is key to brand loyalty in the digital age.
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