10 Pillars of the New Digital Shopping Experience

It’s easy to be distracted by the multitude of tech advances around us. Even worse, retailers can lose sight of the ultimate player in the shopping world along the way: the consumer.

Innovation consulting firm PSFK, which has released its robust Future of Retail report for the past seven years, gave Retail’s Digital Summit attendees a clarifying peek at current trends, numerous retail examples and tips on where to invest next. “The Future of Retail 2017: Trends Shaping the Digital Experience” session on Tuesday was led by PSFK founder and President Piers Fawkes and Scott Lachut, the company’s president of research and strategy.

“Our job is to build a framework on which you can build a digital shopper experience,” Fawkes said. Over the years, the organization has been able to watch the changes taking place. But the biggest change of late is the impact of mobile and social media on the retail experience — one that has brought a “seismic shift in terms of customer behavior.”

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See more insights from Retail’s Digital Summit: Check out the event recap.

Here, then, are PSFK’s 10 pillars for leveraging technology to create a seamless journey, putting the consumer back in the middle of the experience.

Create confidence

This means using the right tools and advice to help shoppers have the right experience. IKEA has incorporated virtual reality to allow consumers to “experience” remodeling a room, even opening drawers and seeing the space from a child’s point of view. Rent the Runway uses Snapchat to connect shoppers with employees of their body type willing to try on clothing items to show fit.

Key trends: product immersion and guided recommendations.

Eliminate obstacles

Save customers time and effort along the purchase path. Taco Bell allows consumers to order food through a Slack instant message “TacoBot.” ModiFace uses augmented reality to allow consumers to try on makeup.

Key trends: anywhere purchase platforms, digital services that allow consumers to “shop ahead” and one-click transactions. 

Democratize access

Extend previously exclusive services to a broader audience. Saks Fifth Avenue has offered personal shopping advice around the clock through email and chat.

Key trends: customer concierges and aspirational experiences.

Recognize and personalize

Take note of purchase history and preferences, and tailor experiences over time. Nike established detailed customer profiles by incorporating uploaded workout data, then offered related product recommendations and instructional videos. Macy’s has worked with IBM Watson to marry artificial intelligence with location-specific guidance on products and inventory.

Key trends: 360-degree service and predictive assistance.

Promote transparency

Be upfront with consumers about what they’re buying into. Sage Project, for example, takes a playful approach to nutrition information.

Key trends: creating reciprocal, opt-in relationships that deliver value and storied products.

Five Places to Invest in the Digital Customer Journey

PSFK’s recommendations for retailers:

Automate an intelligent front line

Empower a connected sales force

Build a comprehensive customer view

Drive commerce with compelling content

Equip the modern shopper to act

Perfect partnerships

Create extra value and expand offerings through strategic collaborations. Instacart has worked with Allrecipes and others to gather and deliver all groceries needed for a particular recipe in a single click. HGTV and Food Network have joined with Amazon TV to allow consumers to shop from their favorite shows.

Key trends: cross-channel rewards and additive experiences.

Optimize ownership

Ensure that consumers have the support and expertise they need after a purchase is made. Brazilian cosmetics brand o Boticário has live-streamed makeup tutorials, allowing consumers to interact and ask questions on the spot. Lowe’s has offered 360-degree videos that run less than a minute to teach home improvement skills.

Key trends: cultivated expertise and always-on support.

Cultivate community

Help consumers come together to help build the brand. Underwear brand Björn Borg introduced Sprinter, a Tinder-like socializing app that allowed access based on uploaded fitness points. Ford, capitalizing on the shared-economy movement, has offered tools to help consumers co-lease cars.

Key trends: creating cultural hubs and collaborative marketplaces.

Encourage advocacy

Find the fans—and encourage them to “sell” on the brand’s behalf. Beauty brand CoverFX, after noticing consumers sharing photographs of and conversations about products on social media, has seen a lift in sales by featuring actual consumers rather than models on its website. Tesco Bank has opened up avenues for consumers to share discussions on financial health.

Key trends: shopper-led exchange and crowd buy-in.

Deliver delight

Reward those who live out the brand. Taco Bell, for example, has given meaningful rewards to customers not just for purchases, but also for how they participate on social media.

Key trend: insider exclusives.

See more trends and retail stories from Retail’s Digital Summit: Check out the official event recap.