The Electronic Retailing Association

MCMS Speaker Insight Article: Mattias Bråhammar's 3 Fundamentals to Success in Digital Commerce

#1 Each channel or touchpoint has its unique communication language, and the customers expect to see content in line with the correct language style.

Mattias Bråhammar

Mattias Bråhammar has over 20 years of experience in Media & Digital Commerce, holding various Executive and Board level positions in industry leading corporations. He’s currently Owner and Co-owner of the companies MILAN | DIGITAL and Veespo, and also active as Industry Expert, Advisor and Consultant.

For more info: www.milandigital.it

Leveraging social media and an omnichannel approach has been top of mind in the discussion circles of retailers lately, but if you look at the actual results for the end customers not so much has really happened. What is really the key to get this right?

Adding value

First of all it’s important to set the scene regarding the expectations of the customers, or better, your audience. As much as most human beings dislike forced advertising pushed in their faces, as often seen both in DRTV and bricks and mortar situations: “Buy three, pay for two”, “30% discount but only until Saturday”, “Less than 50 left at this price”, “Super-bargain-price but only for the first 20 customers”, as much the same individuals would happily walk in to a store, of their own free will, if they feel they get an added value out of the visit.

Secret sauce

This is the fundamental ingredient in the “secret sauce” that leading TV Shopping companies have leveraged over the last four decades. Think about it: if you have 20 minutes to kill, you rarely go to a “commodity commerce site” like Amazon, where the products are lined up in an efficient and cost related catalogue-manner, but you instead look for a user experience that gives you inspiration, ideas, tips & tricks, where you learn about new trends, science, wellbeing and about other peoples’ experiences.

This is clearly a much more editorial experience than the catalogue, commodity-based Amazon experience, and the key point is that if the customers feel they get an added value out of visiting your physical store, e-com website, Instagram profile or Facebook page, then they happily come back of their own free will, also without any clear need to actually buy anything.

And this is the real key point: they come with their psychological barriers down, exactly the opposite to when they get the forced advertising shoved in their faces, as per my previous example.

This is where the masterful sellers take advantage of the customers' open mind and curiosity that they show once they enter. The customers know that they don’t have to buy anything if they don’t want to, and they also know that even if they don’t, they will most likely come out of this experience feeling richer than when they came in, having got inspiration for future trends, having learned something new about e.g. technology or maybe having seen how other people choose to enrich their lives.

Today’s customers are becoming more and more sophisticated and expect not only a bargain price but also to get added value. This is also a potential opportunity for DRTV type of operators, as the editorial experience can be created also on web and social network platforms, where the boundaries between physical TV channels, stations and countries are opened, and “cost per views” / “cost per clicks” are vastly lower than the price of programming segments on major TV channels.

So what does this mean in a nutshell?

Customer journey alternatives

It means that in order to successfully attract customers to sell products they actually don’t need - as opposed to commodities such as gasoline, milk or toilet paper - creating the customer journey described above, you have far greater possibilities to be successful, with higher price margins, lower advertising costs and greater long term customer stickiness and retention, than if you focus solely on the forced-advertising-and-price-driven scheme.

If you look at it from an outside perspective it’s quite clear: on the one hand you have your customers happily coming to your storefront, in whatever shape or form it is, whether physical or digital, entirely by their free will and with their psychological “I don’t want this person to sell me something I don’t need” barriers down, while on the other hand you try to force a wide and generic audience to buy things they know (or think) they don’t need, only by bombarding them with price and urgency driven convincement campaigns. Which one would you yourself prefer? Yes, that’s what I think too!

I’m not saying that getting a good price is not satisfactory for the end customer (who doesn’t like to 'get a good deal'?), but I do say that if this is the main message, you come through purely as a 'discount and urgency store'. The 'great-deal-weapon' should instead be used as the ultimate conversion tool, to be used once our customer is already attracted and ready, to make sure we close the deal. And after all, even though we may be working with retail, we are also end customers, and if we turn to ourselves to see how and where we prefer to shop, the answer is quite clear.

...you as a brand or retailer have to change and adapt your communication style so that you match your customers’ /followers’ /audience's expectations.

So what has this got to do with social media?

Social media is really just a cumulative name for a group of actually quite different user experiences (“platforms”). Let me give you a few simplified examples:

Instagram

On Instagram people typically look for a purely aspirational and inspirational experience. They might want to see abstract concepts or target images of how they would like themselves (or their lives) to be like, or simply “scenes” where the things they like or look for in life are put into context. This is very different from an “in the face” advert with a glowing price driven message or urgent “hurry up or you will miss out”. So on Instagram people already have a clear feeling for the type of user experience they want to have, and if you as a brand or retailer address them in a completely different format or language, chances are that they will consider your post, or even whole profile, as noise or even worse as spam.

Facebook

On Facebook, on the other hand, people like to discuss, confront themselves, ask questions and see other’s opinions. This is a completely different user experience than what they are looking for on Instagram, and as a consequence, you as a brand or retailer, have to change and adapt your communication style so that you match your customers’ /followers’ /audience's expectations.

Website

On your website, you would like this “editorial added value experience” to continue. You want people to tune in to see what interesting and inspirational content and topics they can get from you, and once they are getting inspired their appetite grows, and that’s when the active selling mechanism should kick in, but in this way more as a logical step for the customer: “I got curious and inspired about this topic, then I learned more about it and now I want it to be part also of my personal life.”

Online Video is the "super-power"

There are also interesting changes with regard to online video consumption, like IGTV, but I think it’s early to draw conclusions regarding the utilisation and uptake for sales of these long-format social video platforms. What is definitely clear already though today, is that moving pictures are and will continue to be the “super-power” to engage and attract customers, as opposed to static websites and text based “catalogue” shopping experiences.

Using these examples in a real world scenario for a retailer, let’s use the following, simplified but conceptual example:

Example: I’m a fashion retailer and I’m about to launch my autumn collection.

  1. INSPIRATION ON INSTAGRAM: I start early on, two months before launch, only on Instagram, with abstract and aspirational shots of my collection, without launch date or price information, but to attract my customers attention to what will eventually be coming.
  2. ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT ON FACEBOOK: Then one month before the launch, I engage with my customers on my Facebook page, starting discussions (these can obviously be triggered, orchestrated and moderated) around the autumn trends, but referencing to the aspirational qualities and particulars of my new collection, as seen on Instagram. Now my customers can start to discuss this, asking questions, and sharing their own ideas and thoughts.
  3. AWAKE CURIOSITY ON WEBSITE (or TV CHANNEL): Finally I drive the customers to my website (or TV channel) where the real action takes place, but instead of only simply selling the items, I create side-stories that dress up the full story and make this an editorial experience for my customers. These can be interviews with the designers, back stage reports around the collection and campaigns, user-generated content and testimonials from customers who share their own ideas and experiences around this trend and collection, as well as fashion show related content that shows the collection in real life contexts.
  4. CUSTOMER CONVERSION: This, all together, creates a flow of story telling and logical development for the customers, that – not being aware of how it has been planned and executed – follows the flow from inspiration (Instagram) through active engagement (Facebook) to direct curiosity (editorials on the website or TV channel) to the final conviction and purchase (conversion).

The example above explains a logical flow that may seem complex and cumbersome to put into place, but if you think about all the lost advertising efforts and badly addressed commercial initiatives (e.g. “Don’t show me Pampers if I don’t have small children!”), instead of having curious and eager customers, that come into your “store” by free will, open to be taught and inspired, the latter is not only much more convincing from a human psychology perspective, but personally also much more fun to implement. It also has a great added benefit: your customers will happily go and tell all their friends how exciting, fun and educational your brand or store is, and this is truly the very best advertising available!

The Engagement Baton.

So, what is really the key to get a channel coherent communication language right, in line with the customers’ expectations?

Well, consider each channel like a different “sense”, where people tune in with a specific expectation, and try to really match this expectation, conveying your brand's most interesting and captivating aspects. Don’t underestimate the power of “collateral knowledge” that you and your brand can teach your customers, as this will be a key element in your story telling to create a strong bond with your brand (and NOT with your competitors!).

See your different touchpoints as different laps with the “baton”, where each runner has a specific segment to cover, but at the end, completing the full race to the finish line.

This is the first in a series of three articles by Mattias Bråhammar on the 3 Fundamentals to success in Digital Commerce. The first article discusses the first fundamental and the following articles on the second and third fundamentals will be published in early 2019 at era-europe.eu