The unified customer experience has become trendy in the last few years because it’s about creating experiences across “all channels” for “connected and consistent customer interactions.” And a lot of marketers have taken it to mean that you should be everywhere, at all times, for everyone—but most successful marketers will tell you that’s not possible.
A successful retail strategy isn’t about being everywhere, it’s about being where your unique customer is, identifying that mix of channels and touch points and offering the right solutions at the right time to engage with your customers.
Those interactions across your business channels—from inspiration to purchase—are called touch points, defined by SurveyMonkey as “your brand’s points of customer contact, from start to finish.” Examples of touch points include search listings, paid ads, social media, ratings and reviews, and both online and physical visits to your business. And according to a Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights survey conducted in February 2020, 78 percent of online shoppers have had a unified customer experience touch point in the last six months.
Customers no longer purchase in one single channel and they often have multiple touch points per channel before they make a purchase. Take, for example, a TV purchase. Before a customer ever walks into your store, their journey might start with a Google search for “best smart TVs 2021.” They’ll scan a few different lists online reading reviews before visiting a single retailer’s website. After they’ve decided which TV is right for them, they might sign up for a loyalty e-newsletter on the retailer’s website for a discount on a future purchase and check to see if the TV is in stock at a store near them. Finally, they pay that store a visit, speak to someone on the floor, get set up with their new TV, and use their loyalty discount at checkout.
On that path to purchasing, this customer has had four touch points across channels:
1. Online (search): The Google search that showed your product in results
2. Online (website): The visit to your website, where they sign up for a loyalty program
3. Online (competitor research): Research to check the stock of products for local stores
4. Offline (in-store): The visit to your store, where the in-store research, discussion and purchase take place
Consumers who use more than one touch point in their retail journey will likely spend more, and they have a higher lifetime value.
According to an HBR study of 46,000 shoppers, “customers who used 4+ channels spent 9 percent more in the store, on average, when compared to those who used just one channel.” Another 2019 report from Ayden research revealed that, globally, cross-channel shoppers spent 30 percent more per purchase. Not only are the majority of consumers now shopping using multiple channels, but the more channels used, the higher the value of that customer (both short term and long term).