Shoppers want curated experiences no matter where they are. How can brands be everywhere while staying relevant?
Explore the 2023 Global State of Conversational Commerce for updated data & insights.
I’ve spent the last few years watching mobile marketing get more and more popular.
As brands have adapted to doing business in a hybrid world, I’ve heard them hone in on two key challenges:
- How can I translate the in-store experience into mobile touchpoints?
- How can I give my brand a personality across my new digital channels?
Balancing physical and digital presences has created a new set of challenges. But in a world where consumers prioritize convenience, it’s also created new opportunities. Understanding what convenience means to your customers on and offline is key to getting the most out of your channels. And doing so will ultimately help you build a brand people love (and keep coming back to).
With so many opportunities for engagement, it can be tricky to know where to start. We surveyed over 5,000 consumers to learn their expectations for convenience, from their hybrid shopping habits to what they’re looking for when they sign up for loyalty programs. By far, what we heard echoed where I see brands having the most opportunity to deliver the sorts of experiences consumers are craving.
Personalization should serve convenience—and feel authentic
Consumers have higher expectations now when it comes to convenience. Being able to buy something in a single click is now table stakes, not the exception. Today, convenience means removing friction from the entire customer journey.
The results of our survey emphasize two clear winners when it comes to what consumers find convenient: fast shipping and easy payment processes. At the end of the day, shoppers don’t just want to get things done quickly. They want it to feel effortless.
So, what can you do to make those “well, that was simple” moments happen? Think about when you’re looking to gain some efficiency in this world. You’re probably going digital. Brands need to consider how they can deliver hyper-relevant experiences to all of their customers in a way that feels authentic.
What it really comes down to is curation. It’s something that naturally takes place in-store. You can ask a sales associate for recommendations, or maybe you find yourself gravitating towards a specific section of the sales floor (like resort wear or suiting). Now, shoppers are looking for this same level of curation online, too.
Curation is where convenience meets hyper-relevancy
I recently started looking for a dress to wear to my niece’s wedding this spring. I don’t want to keep going back to Cynthia Rowley’s site to see if they’ve added anything new that I might like. That’s a lot of friction. I want Cynthia Rowley to come to me with recommendations. Ultimately, I want to reduce the amount of time I have to spend browsing product pages or the number of times I have to click to find the right dress. Today, Cynthia Rowley can text me a link to their latest cocktail dress collection, or recommend dresses similar to the ones I’ve browsed. That’s a much better consumer experience.
Brands are thinking about how to not only re-engage audiences and drive conversions, but do so in a hyper-relevant way.
The more a brand knows about what I’m on the hunt for, the more likely it is that I’m going to have a good experience with them. They’ll be able to give me helpful recommendations, and I’ll probably convert because they’re serving me exactly what I’m in the market for.
The brands that approach personalization from a place of being helpful are going to be the ones that really rise above and succeed in the market. Saying, “We saw you’re looking at red sweaters,” and sending me a link to the sweater category isn’t cutting it anymore. Instead, brands can use zero- and first-party data to say, “We know you like sweaters with monograms on them. Here are our latest additions,” or “The sweater you were looking for was out of stock, but it’s back now!” It’s all about bringing the personalization and curation that you can normally only get in a store to your digital touchpoints.
With these expectations for convenience and personalization top-of-mind, it makes sense more consumers than ever are signing up for texts. It has hyper-relevancy and loyalty baked into it. In 2020, 55.9% of consumers said they were signed up for texts. When we surveyed consumers this year, 81.2% said they’re signed up for at least one brand’s SMS program.
Shoppers want curated shopping experiences both on and offline
Shoppers are fluidly moving between digital and physical worlds, combining in-store and online shopping habits. Hybrid shopping isn’t just a trend—it’s a fundamental shift in how we shop. Nearly 90% of shoppers told us they do some form of hybrid shopping at least part of the time.
Consumers are leaning into hybrid shopping because it helps them quickly make informed decisions. Some shoppers want to see a product in person or ask a sales associate questions before making a decision. Others will rely on social proof, like reviews and social media posts. But most will use a mix of these experiences to feel confident about their purchasing decisions.
Creating truly convenient hybrid shopping experiences isn’t just about being everywhere your customers are. Meeting consumers’ expectations requires really digging into what your customers want to get out of each interaction, whether it’s on or offline.
Brands are supplementing in-store experiences with mobile conversations
When you visit Urban Outfitters, there’s usually someone at the door who welcomes you into the store. They may say, “Hey, we’ve got a bunch of spring styles for you.” Or, vice versa, you can go to them and ask, “Hey, I love these jeans. What tops go with them?” They’re able to naturally guide you to products you’re interested in.
Even if you’re not engaging with a store associate working the floor, there’s a level of convenience that naturally comes with in-store shopping. When you’re in a rush and need to pick up a shirt, you can walk into a store and know exactly what section to go to to find something that’s your taste.
Both of these scenarios are curation in action—you’re finding products you’re interested in, faster. Now, brands are using text messaging to deliver those same curated and authentic experiences to all of their online shoppers. They’re linking out to new collections and product recommendations based on what you’ve browsed, essentially bringing you to the section of the digital sales floor you like best.
Your brand has an opportunity to build relationships with customers over text messaging—something that naturally happens in-store, and not something you can do in the no-reply world of email.
Brand is a cornerstone of loyalty
There’s another key element to curation that people lose when they go digital: personality. Conversational commerce is helping bring that level of personalization and authenticity to mobile. This is why two-way messaging comes with a loyalty benefit, too.
Our survey found that nearly 86% of consumers are opted in to at least one VIP or loyalty program (it’s also pretty interesting that almost as many are opted in to SMS programs). Shoppers are joining loyalty programs to get perks like first access to sales and new products. But they also cited another reason: 44% said they’ve signed up for a loyalty program simply because they like what a brand is doing.
Loyalty programs shouldn’t be strictly transactional. They should also help your customers get to know you better.
Loyalty has leveled up
Personalizing your digital experiences based solely on your customers’ preferences isn’t enough to stand out from your competition anymore. Your interactions need to feel authentic and come from a place of helping the consumer. Leaning into your brand’s personality can help make digital experiences feel more relevant, genuinely helpful, and human.
Marketers are trying to figure out how to give their brand a personality on their digital channels. Conversational commerce really lends itself to that, helping them build loyalty over time.
Text messaging is inherently conversational. When you reach out to a brand via text, you expect to get a response back. That back-and-forth is a natural opportunity for brands to lean into their brand voice, making their interactions feel more authentic (and helpful).
You have a point of view that can help customers in their own shopping journey. When you lean into your brand voice and use language that’s authentic to you, you’re naturally going to grow and strengthen your audience. Your personality will help you stick out. And while you may not be for everybody, that’s a good thing. The people who will be drawn to your brand are going to be loyalists.
Denise Lee, Founder & CEO of Alala, agrees. “When I first started Alala, I felt pressure to be like everybody else—to say certain things and do things a certain way,” she said. "But at the end of the day, people want to know how you're unique, how you're special. Maybe they'll connect with you, and maybe they won't. But that's a good thing, right? You’ll find your people. Your expression of your brand is really important, and it's also just a great way to do business.”
For more insights on what consumers want from brands, read our report, “The State of Conversational Commerce in 2022.”