Before the pandemic, I was turning to digital channels when I wanted greater convenience, recommendations from favorite brands, more product options and the ability to compare those choices. When I was seeking to experience and explore, learn or get expert help, I would often venture in store. In the COVID-19 world, I find myself relying on digital channels even more. Of course, I’m not alone. Whether looking for a smart speaker or a cashmere cardigan, more shoppers are starting their search online and getting more comfortable going digital to complete the purchase.

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Consumers using omnichannel services chart | Accenture

Source: Accenture COVID-19 Consumer Pulse Research, conducted 2nd-8th June 2020. Excludes those who do not use services. 

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The accelerated shift to digital channels is likely to endure long after the public health crisis abates. In fact, recent Accenture research points to a 160% future increase in ecommerce purchases from new or low-frequency users.

Yet stores aren’t doomed for extinction. They will continue to have an important – albeit changing – role in the shopping landscape. In fact, there is a compelling opportunity to blend physical and digital like never before.

What does this mean for consumer brands?

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"It's more important than ever to know your customers - and, more specifically, to identify your best customers."

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For one thing, it has become more important than ever to know your customers – and, more specifically, to identify your best customers and how they behave. Insights on these customers should serve as a guide for which products and services are successful and which generate the most profit.

Since it’s no longer as easy for your best customers to shop in person, consider investing in a digital experience that’s richer and more interactive. Your improved experience also needs to be more personal so you can recognize customers digitally, begin to guide their engagement and deliver a delightful experience whether in store, online or some combination of the two. Leading brands will make it easy for customers to engage on their own terms – offering the best of digital (convenience, curation and choice) and physical (personal engagement and expert help) across all channels.

A close second to knowing your best customers is knowing what your brand stands for. What can customers expect from your brand in terms of quality, style and reliability as well as sustainability? What are the brand-relevant journeys – that is, solutions that are compelling in people’s daily lives – that you can offer to attract and retain top customers? You want to offer curation and personalization, but it must align with the products, services and experiences you’ve built your brand around. No brand can be all things to all customers; nor should they aspire to.

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Some brands have done a terrific job creating clear brand points of view and delivering excellent customer experiences (Allbirds and Stitch Fix are two that come to mind immediately). Other brands, such as Nordstrom, are making great progress in interweaving digital and in-store experiences (for example, by having stylists go digital).

By understanding who your best customers are, you can better focus your resources on meeting their expectations – and finding other shoppers whose values, needs and preferences align with your brand’s unique point of view. You want to inspire a connection with your customers and become part of that customer’s own personal brand.

The key to making this work: data. Without the ability to develop deep customer insights – including predicting your best customers’ behavior – it is impossible to finetune engagement, recommend products and services, or curate a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. 

How can you bring these opportunities to life? Watch for upcoming posts that share greater detail on how brands can begin operationalizing these approaches. 

Anne Hodson

Managing Director – Customer, Sales & Service, Retail

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