In the last decade, digital transformation has not only been a goal for brands, but an obsession. According to its proponents, the idea is to use data and technology to become increasingly customer-centric, supporting the customer journey at every step of the way. purchases.
Unfortunately, all this investment also required brands and retailers to face the law of unintended consequences. For most, digital has resulted in a profound shift in how they operate, often at a great disadvantage.
Companies that once thrived on making intimate connections with regular customers now find themselves increasingly in competition for traffic rather than hearts and minds. For them, transformation isn’t just about embracing data and technology, it’s about turning physical traffic into digital traffic. In doing so, they lost a critical advantage over their competitors.
The true DNA of retail
Let’s look at the original DNA of a good brand or retailer. Traditionally, companies like these never bothered with generating and converting traffic; they were built on retention. If you were opening a physical store in the 1980s, traffic was a given.
You had a defined space: a spot in the mall, a store on a busy street, or a kiosk in an upscale department store. You understood at a basic level what quantity and quality of traffic you could expect. You have an idea of the buyer’s income and how they like to spend it. Of course, you can always generate additional traffic with promotions, but marketing was just a sideshow.
Instead, its main focus was retention. You sought to create a unique customer service that built loyalty and drove growth through metrics including average check size, customer satisfaction and referral rates. Unlike the digital world, these stores didn’t need massive traffic. They needed regular traffic and they needed to serve it well.
Instead of a great but commoditized digital experience, merchants have strived to offer a unique shopping experience. It wasn’t just about the products on their shelves, it was about making sure people felt they were getting a good deal and making the right buying decisions. If you didn’t meet these expectations, they would never come back.
The paradox of traffic-focused strategy
Something quite different happens when a brand transforms itself digitally. Regardless of honest attempts to make the customer experience better, most brands start playing a numbers game. They use a wide variety of data-driven promotions to bring as many of the right types of people to their sites as possible.
This is the main reason they look for their own data and one of the main ways they use it. It’s not uncommon to hear about “prospecting” and “demand gathering” that are unique to the digitally transformed world.
The traffic game has also fundamentally changed. In the physical world, companies had a neutral infrastructure – a street, a mall, a mall. In contrast, digital traffic is mediated by markets, social media and search engines.
All of these are players with their own agendas, some of which are actively hostile to the brands they serve. Most brick-and-mortar stores were originally online because their customers migrated to the big IT players looking for a combination of abundance, availability and affordability.
Today, those same brands rely on traffic from the very players who originally stopped them. What’s more, they’re trying to compete with them using the same endless shelves and quick-delivery strategies that decimated their business.
Brands cannot stand out from the tech giants that way. They cannot compete with them on qualities such as abundance, accessibility and availability. And they can’t do that especially if they also depend on them for traffic.
the back road
So how can they fight back? It’s really very simple. If brands and retailers want to reconnect with consumers, they get back to what they do best: they need to bring people back into the shopping process. I don’t mean that they need to develop a personality or connect with a data-driven vision.
It’s not about having a better spokesperson or taking a stand on issues that matter to your customers. It’s about bringing that human and practical experience back to the point of purchase. It’s about rehumanizing the shopping experience. For all the perks, the sterile commerce experiences most people get from the IT giants are far from perfect.
No matter how much data or technology they use, their customers are still making the wrong buying decisions and missing out on opportunities due to the staggering volume of products on the market. When they go to a tech giant or a Shopify store, they don’t have a unique or optimized customer journey. They get the same commodified product they get from everyone else. Not ideal.
You can overcome this lack by connecting customers with people. Within every brand or retailer, you can find hundreds if not thousands of employees who truly understand the space. They know the products and know how to use them – and which ones are right for whom.
Bringing these savvy humans back into the equation can level the playing field and open up new sales opportunities. Brands and retailers have a great opportunity to connect consumers and guide them through the process in a helpful and supportive way.
The digital transformation has gone awry because it has become a process of imitation subservient to giants, which prioritizes generating and converting traffic over everything else. To react, companies need to tap their human knowledge background and reconnect with people on a human level. They need to remember what made them great in the beginning and start finding ways to reintroduce that into a digitally transformed world.
Matter translated from Adage.
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