About three years ago, business was booming for the sustainable-fashion brand, Reformation. But, their physical stores were so jampacked with product that the customer experience was, in short, not good. The founder, Yael Aflalo, began to consider how she might minimize the available merchandise while leaving enough for the increased foot traffic. She settled on a model similar to that used in Tesla showrooms that are conspicuously missing a parking lot full of cars or in Apple stores that have very limited inventory displayed in the storefronts. Soon, Reformation stores displayed only one of each of the most popular items. However, all merchandise options are viewable on touchscreens.
“Around the store, there are touchscreen monitors that allow customers to scan through outfits. When they find one they like, they can click on the size and it will appear in the dressing room, as if by magic,” explains Fast Company. Behind the scenes, sales associates pull all of the garments selected by shoppers and organize them in dedicated fitting rooms. On the touchscreen, customer options only include what is in inventory with near-perfect accuracy. And in the background, Reformation can collect data about which outfits and sizes are most popular and how long customers spend trying on clothes.
It’s a huge success — Reformation runs more efficiently, and the customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, as they can now move seamlessly from touchscreen to dressing room. If there are questions, sales associates are trained to both help shoppers effectively interact with touchscreens and to support the dressing room experience. Yael is already planning additional improvements such as being able to send purchases directly to customers’ homes after they make in-store touchscreen purchases or having dressing rooms ready with selections customers made while shopping online from other locations.
Creating Fluidity — and Fluid Experiences
Every retailer should focus on delivering a consistent and cohesive omnichannel experience. But, more and more, it’s becoming clear that sophisticated shoppers want more. They want fluidity between all touchpoints — whether digital or physical — and it’s raising the bar for omnichannel marketing.
Designing fluid experiences enables retailers to create and manage omnichannel experiences across all touchpoints — including in-store associate apps, social media platforms, physical signage, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and smart screens. Content that is centrally managed and optimized, alongside the ability to automatically edit and resize images and copy based on the channel, are two technologies that help create fluid experiences at scale.
Fluid experiences also help retailers maximize the unique capabilities of any platform — without added legwork. For example, a department store promoting its semiannual runway event may promote a new collection to its customers via email. The same campaign content could then automatically be positioned for Facebook, web content, or Twitter and provide detailed personal and relevant information about the promotion — including event timing, accessible locations, and specific offers.
Granted, the level of fluid experience varies by vertical. As I explained to the New York Times, “If it’s high-touch retail, you want to provide great experiences and entertainment. But if it’s grocers or big-box stores, the technology needs to make that experience more seamless and efficient.” What unifies these moments, however, is that they’re consistent across platforms, create powerful experiences that keep customers engaged in delightful and personal ways, and keep them returning for more.
Personalizing experiences when there’s no single path to purchase — and when those paths involve both physical and digital touchpoints — requires leveraging data to deliver cohesive experiences at the highest level.
Do Personalization Right
With all the intelligence and technology available, it’s essential to match each piece of content to the right individual persona so the experience delivers value. And, as a word of caution: no personalization is better than bad personalization — if you don’t properly leverage the data you have, you can deliver flat-out terrible experiences that alienate customers and prospects.
For example, there is a particular retailer that I love, but I’m ready to sever ties because — even though they know I’m male — they consistently show me female-focused products, services, and content. For example, I’ve never given any indication that I want or need a slimming swimsuit, but I regularly receive “personalized” messages encouraging me to invest in one. When mistargeting mistakes like that happen, your customers will quickly move on to the next retailer — one that will deliver a more relevant experience.
Additionally, if you deliver an experience that’s not personalized to the platform or device your customer uses, you’ll sink more than you’ll swim. Desktop ads viewed on mobile devices lose 50 percent of their effectiveness — they’re just not the right experience for such small screens. And 50 percent of consumers under 50 take it a step further, saying they prefer ads personalized to their specific interests, traits, and preferences — and still another 30 percent under 50 say even that’s not good enough.
Driven by the Customer — and YOU
Because experiences don’t happen only in the digital world, building fluid experiences crosses over into brick and mortar as well — as Reformation noted when creating a new model for their store. Now, when shoppers visit a store’s physical location, digital signage, associates’ apps, and point-of-sale technology are all in sync, creating a consistent, choreographed experience. The result is a powerful brand experience, one that transcends both platform and individual touchpoint, in the customer’s journey. And it couldn’t come at a better time, as customer experiences are far from linear but aren’t entirely digital either.
It’s a clear departure from the traditional funnel as well as from omnichannel marketing even a year or two ago — and that’s good for everyone. Data empowers digital marketers everywhere to deliver more effective and more efficient promotions and experiences across all channels, provided companies are willing to tear down the silos and flesh out 360-degree views of their customers. This, at the end of the day, is the Holy Grail when it comes to producing and delivering highly relevant and incredibly timely content at scale — in other words, personalization done well.
Learn more about how your organization can create and manage fluid experiences across all touchpoints and platforms. It’s a simple process that will take your campaigns to the next level — syncing your messaging and enabling truly great customer experiences that you can manage without long, drawn-out system overhauls or massive investments. It’s a win-win — fluid for both your customers and your business.