The concept of “path to purchase” has long been a mainstay of retail strategy, but a new era of the mobile-empowered consumer is now defining a whole new path. How retailers and other enterprises respond to this shift with their mobile strategy will have profound implications for their sales success in the next few years.
Retailers have long desired to own their consumer experience, and many have used the path-to-purchase model to determine when, where and how to interact with consumers. The typical path to purchase is linear and employs a sequence that includes campaign inception, research, strategy development, campaign execution, customer purchase, results measurement, and follow-up customer outreach.
However, the soaring rate of mobile adoption and the new expectations of more mobile-enabled consumers have altered this linear path. Mobile use is at an all-time high and continuing to accelerate, and it is increasingly being used for shopping and making purchases. Consumers now own an average of 2.5 mobile devices, according to the book The Gen Z Effect, and they leverage these devices as second screens or as an integrated experience when engaging with brands and retailers. At the same time, mobile technology has transformed how consumers interact with, shop at, and purchase from their favorite companies. With faster mobile networks, more sophisticated smartphones and more innovative apps, consumers have gained – and come to expect – to interact in richer and more intuitive ways.
As a result of this increased mobile adoption and changing mobile lifestyle, a seamless, omni-channel path-to-purchase strategy has become imperative for retailers to strengthen sales, build loyalty and acquire new customers. Merely adding new channels to the marketing mix, without taking into account the holistic consumer experience and the potential collateral damage of uncoordinated campaigns, is not enough to succeed in this new mobile era.
Over my career, I have consulted with, worked for, and watched retailers tackle this issue by carefully managing their consumer data within their customer relationship management systems. Based on my experiences, I have defined three best practices that I think are critical for any company to integrate in revamping its patch-to-purchase model with a mobile strategy:
- Mobile context data – Enterprises need to understand consumers’ preferences and patterns, with the explicit consent of these consumers, and act accordingly. The use of “mobile context” information – such as where consumers like to go, what they like to shop for and how they like to be contacted – is being used by companies to better serve consumers with more relevant, timely communications. In particular, this data allows a company to target offers that reach consumers in the mobile moment, when they are most likely to take an action, such as redeeming a coupon.
- Real-time response – Enterprises must be able to respond to customers’ mobile interactions in real time or near-real time, and then leverage that information along with Web, social and transactional information to get a full view of their customers. This contextual data paints an entirely different picture than just transactional data and is used to create key performance indicators for areas such as customer sentiment and brand strength.
- Single customer view – Finally, enterprises need a way to create a single view of their customer across all channels to provide a seamless experience. Customers expect a simple experience where the retailer knows what they have told them but doesn’t go too far into the creepy factor.
What are your thoughts on how today’s path-to-purchase model has been transformed by mobile? Would you add any best practices to the ones above?