Digital customer experience: Everything you need to know to boost omnichannel digital commerce in 2022

Digital customer experience: Everything you need to know to boost omnichannel digital commerce in 2022

Apr 28, 2022 • 8 min read

All the buzz in 2022 is about digital customer experience. Forget about digital transformation - we’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt! Now is the time to focus on your customers’ needs, wants and wishes, and transform the ways in which you can deliver on them across all your channels.

To do this, as a digital commerce company, you need to adopt an omnichannel, customer-centric approach that resonates throughout your online platforms all the way to your brick-and-mortar store. Not only does research show that companies with a strong omnichannel customer experience strategy retain 89% of their customers, in comparison to 33% for companies with weaker strategies, customers now expect brands to provide personalized omnichannel experiences.

With rapid changes in consumer behavior spurred on by the pandemic’s “new normal”, digital commerce companies have had to respond just as rapidly. Consumer demands for faster, more engaging, personalized, accessible and convenient shopping experiences has led companies to reevaluate the definition of digital customer experience and the best ways to curate it across channels.

Read on to find out how leaders in the digital commerce industry are using digital commerce technology to offer exceptional omnichannel digital customer experiences!

What is a digital customer experience?

We’re in an age where consumers value experiences more than the actual products they are purchasing. So much so in fact, that according to the 2021 Achieving Customer Amazement report, 70% of surveyed consumers say they’re willing to pay more for a great customer experience.

But what actually constitutes a great customer experience? In a nutshell, these four points can be considered the foundation of a successful customer experience journey - from discovery to delivery.

  • Personalization: Personalization needs to be built into the core of customer experience and impact every point of customer engagement - both online and in-store. Customer interaction points on the buying journey should work cohesively to build a complete picture of each visitor to provide highly personalized, relevant and compelling customer experiences.
  • Trust: Customers are more likely to choose your brand over another if you provide full, real-time inventory visibility with products and services that have optimized pricing, and are available with multiple delivery options.
  • Loyalty: Not only do customers expect a rich set of personalized loyalty rewards, offers, promotions and on-demand customer service, they want it at every touchpoint. Building a modern loyalty platform in-house empowers marketing teams to respond to changes in customer behavior faster and provide more ways to engage with customers, which leads to higher customer satisfaction, retention, and conversion.
  • Engagement: With the rise of modern conversational AI, digital shopping assistants, chatbots and intelligent IVR are expected to engage the customer at every step of the shopping journey - from product discovery, product research and selection, to checkout and post-purchase support - all while continuously learning from customer behavior to provide even deeper levels of personalization. Conversational AI not only delights customers, but also empowers sales and support teams with the complete context of customers’ shopping journeys to personalize engagement right through to the shop floor.
Foundation of successful digital customer experience journey

We’ll provide more details on these four foundational elements further on, but first, it’s important to understand why omnichannel customer experience can’t be ignored in 2022.

Why omnichannel digital customer experience?

Even though the sheer amount of channels available in today’s digital commerce landscape seems dizzying, the speed at which savvy consumers are able to move between platforms and channels during a single buying journey is now commonplace, and expected. Consider these stats about the benefits of omnichannel customer experience:

  • The number of orders placed online and picked up at brick-and-mortar stores by customers grew 208% during the pandemic. (Adobe Analytics)
  • Data collected by Think With Google indicated that omnichannel strategies help generate around 80% of the in-store visits by customers. Furthermore, as much as 74% of customers do online research before visiting a physical store. (Think With Google)
  • 45% of shoppers in-store expect sales associates to be knowledgeable about online-only products. (Forrester)
  • 71% of shoppers agree that it is important or very important to be able to view inventory information for in-store products. (Forrester)
  • 50% of shoppers expect that they will be able to make a purchase online and pick up in-store. (Forrester)
  • 39% of consumers are unlikely or very unlikely to visit a retailer’s store if the online store does not provide physical store inventory information. (Forrester)
  • 56% of consumers have used their mobile device to research products at home with 38% having used their mobile device to check inventory availability while on their way to a store and 34% who have used their mobile device to research products while in a store. (Forrester)

As you can see, seamless omnichannel experiences benefit both customers and businesses.

The key takeaway: seamless transitions between touchpoints - be it online or offline - with a consistent and recognizable brand presence and customer experience throughout the journey is fundamental to meeting consumer goals.

So, how do personalization, trust, loyalty and engagement translate into an omnichannel customer experience? Let’s find out!

The 4 foundations of a successful omnichannel digital customer experience

To help you hit the ground running in the race toward creating exceptional omnichannel digital customer experiences, we’ve highlighted the four elements you should focus on throughout the customer journey, as well as the technology solutions you can use to implement them.

Personalization

Omnichannel customer experience personalization is one of the hottest trends in 2022, and forward-thinking businesses are aggressively expanding their investments this year with a particular focus on emerging product discovery innovations, and customer intelligence and personalization tools.

AI-powered product discovery

The discovery stage of the customer buying journey holds massive potential for delivering personalization that attracts, converts and delights customers. On the forefront of product discovery innovation in 2022 are visual search, semantic vector search and recommendations.

Visual search enables customers to find the products they’re looking for in a snap (literally) - even when they can’t find the words to describe them. Using AI visual similarity models, visual search is able to distinguish even the most subtle details in an image and match them to products in your catalog. Customers can simply upload pictures of what they want in the search bar and receive accurate matches, along with products of a similar style and design, in seconds.

Learn how we helped Art.com with visual search: Art.com helps customers find art they love with visual search

Semantic vector search uses deep learning-based natural language processing capabilities to understand the meaning and intent of search queries, not just find keyword matches. Based on deep, “semantic” modeling of catalog data and customer’s shopping behavior, semantic vector search departs from traditional ways of matching and counting words and focuses on matching concepts. The next generation of semantic vector search engines is rapidly maturing, achieving relevant, timely and personalized results that closely match customer buying intent.

Read more about semantic vector search: Semantic vector search: the new frontier in product discovery

Recommendations engines use machine learning to understand nuances behind customer behavior, context, and SKUs in order to drive engagement and boost conversions across channels through relevant product suggestions. With “more like this” recommendations, your customers can easily find similar products with respect to product-specific features or personal preferences based on purchase history.

Check out Google Cloud Retail Search, Lucidworks and Algolia to learn more about the next-generation answers to visual search, semantic search and recommendations that enable retailers to implement more personalized product search than ever before.

Customer intelligence and personalization

One of the main benefits of customer intelligence is the ability to quantitatively analyze customer journeys both online and in-store, understand what drives certain customer behavior, and determine how the level of engagement can be improved. A customer intelligence platform is able to automatically optimize billions of micro-decisions related to customer experience, personalization, message targeting, and timing using machine learning and advanced analytics to quantify customer lifetime value, suggest personalized next best actions, and estimate the contribution of various touchpoints.

Read more about customer intelligence and personalization here: Advanced customer intelligence

Trust

Instilling trust is essential for brands competing in an increasingly saturated digital commerce market. When it comes to digital commerce customer experience, the easiest and most effective way to earn your customers’ trust is through inventory visibility, and multiple delivery and fulfillment options.

Inventory management

Enriching customer search results with real-time inventory visibility across channels and multiple delivery options makes for a seamless omnichannel shopping experience. Your customers will know exactly what is available, how they can fulfill the order and when they will get it.

With consumer shopping behavior changes as a result of the pandemic, brands need to offer advanced inventory management, delivery and order fulfillment functionalities to meet changing demands and as competitive service differentiators in 2022.

Following a composable commerce paradigm, digital commerce leaders are migrating to next generation API-driven inventory management systems - either building them with cloud-native open source tools or integrating emerging headless cloud OMS platforms like Fluent Commerce - to provide the following omnichannel features:

  • Near-real time global inventory availability feeds
  • Estimated Delivery Dates
  • Dropship and inbound inventory
  • Multiple options for delivery and pickup, including:
  • reserve-in-store
  • ship-from-store, ship-to-store
  • buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS)
  • buy in-store, ship to home
  • buy online, return in-store
  • Tight integration with product discovery, for example:
  • Multiple nearby stores can be selected and products can be discovered with respect to BOPIS and in-store availability
  • Digital and in-store-only products are discoverable
  • Estimated delivery dates are available as filters, and as a badge for each product

To provide fast access to accurate inventory information across channels, start with a high-performance omnichannel inventory engine, and modernize the fulfillment ecosystem by strangling legacy monolithic order management systems. Find out how here: Modernizing inventory management systems

Loyalty

Loyal customers are engaged customers. They are also brand ambassadors and repeat shoppers. The best way to ensure customer loyalty is a dynamic loyalty platform designed to personalize engagement across channels.

Customer loyalty platform

Traditional loyalty engines have limited functionality when it comes to engagement points, typically only rewarding customers for placing orders. But by building a modern customer loyalty platform, you can create the marketing flexibility to incentivize and reward customers for many other activities including answering marketing campaigns, inviting friends, exploring various features of the website, or participating in corporate buying programs for business clients.

Furthermore, modern customer loyalty platforms include customer analytics portals that collect customer engagement data and provide insights and reports to business teams in real-time. This allows them to react to changing customer behavior patterns and quickly make adjustments to loyalty programs and campaigns, and immediately address customer problems with all the necessary information at their fingertips.

Learn more about the benefits of loyalty programs and the platforms driving their success here: Reward Loyal Customers: Comprehensive Guide to Loyalty Programs

Engagement

Engagement is no longer focused only on content marketing, email campaigns and social media networking. Conversational AI is making waves and becoming more mainstream with virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The capabilities of speech recognition and natural language processing now allow people to engage with AI programs in human-like conversations.

Conversational AI

Conversational AI opens the doors for an entirely new generation of smart devices and use cases. One of the most promising is voice-powered retail shopping. With AI/ML-based technology, you will be able to provide a personalized customer experience where a customer’s mobile phone becomes a virtual shopping assistant that learns their preferences, offers personalized recommendations, and provides smart answers to contextual questions.

At Grid Dynamics Labs, we are developing this vision with Grid Genie, an omnichannel conversational commerce platform. The feature set includes the ability to guide the customer through product selection and associated research, facilitate purchases and returns, keep track of order shipments, and more. Read more about Grid Genie here: Grid Genie: the beginning of conversational commerce

Conclusion

Perhaps we’ve only touched the tip of the digital customer experience iceberg in this blog post, but there’s plenty more still to come! Watch out for future posts where we will further explore customer experience in the digital commerce space, as well as in the manufacturing, life sciences and pharma, and insurance industries.

As always, Grid Dynamics is continuously innovating with best-in-class cloud technology, platform architectures, accelerators and solution methodologies for seamless implementations, faster time to market, optimum ecosystem performance, improved business results and ROI.

Our guiding philosophy? Agile co-innovation. This means that we focus on:

  • Developing innovative, differentiating experiences and applications that delight customers with modern user experience, responsive web UI, and native mobile apps.
  • Building distributed scalable backends on the cloud.
  • Leveraging data as one of the most critical assets, building powerful analytical data platforms, and driving insights from data with machine learning and artificial intelligence.
  • Embracing Agile methodology, a high-performance engineering culture, DevOps and automation to change and innovate faster and cheaper.

Reach out to us if you’re looking to grow with an agile co-innovation partner in 2022.

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