The 3 steps to creating a great retail experience

Joe Megibow, former President of Joyus, SVP/Chief Digital Officer at American Eagle Outfitters and executive level omni-channel retail expert, was a keynote speaker at the Clicktale 2017 kickoff. We’re pleased to share some of his insights into the shifts in the retail arena, in a three-part series.

In this first post on the changing world of e-commerce, he will share his three-level hierarchy of creating great retail experiences.

The Megibow digital retail hierarchy

Level 1: Don’t suck

It starts in a very simple place, which I call “Don't Suck”. This means get out of your customer's way, or eliminate friction. A lot of online services and shopping still kind of suck. It’s amazing to me how often, as a shopper, I still run into challenges online. Consumers have an increasingly rising bar of what they expect a basic level of service to be, and many retailers are just not reaching it. So, Level One, don't suck.

Level 2: Parity

Meet the consumers’ needs at their level. It's about making sure that whatever it is the customer expects, whatever they consider basic expectations, whatever they consider easy, just meet them at that level and get it right, which is really hard to do. Even if you succeed, don’t expect direct recognition for it, because what it means is that you become invisible. You've just made things straightforward and simple because you're doing exactly what the customers expect. Shopping becomes a refreshingly delightful experience because you've made it something they don't have to think about.

Level 3: Set expectations

Where it gets really exciting is the next level - Set Expectations. This can be innovation, where you're doing new and exciting things. But it really means you do something that so exceeds the customer’s normal expectations that they may not even notice until they are shopping somewhere else. At that point, what goes through their head is, “Why isn't this as easy as it was at that other site?” The minute that happens, you've set a new bar against which everyone else is going to be measured. That's the excitement, that's the fun.

But it is important to realize it’s a journey. You can’t just start with innovation. If you create something that's truly, amazingly above the bar, but everything else is just a real pain, all consumers are going to feel is the pain. Your customers will question why you are focusing on new, untested things when the basics “still suck”. You have to get it all right and then take the customer with you, as you keep moving the standards upward.

The three levels are clear enough goals. But how can you tell how well you’re doing as you try to push the bar?

Everything on the web is so incredibly measurable. For me, as someone who loves both marketing and data, it's a dream come true. Everything can be quantified and measured and reported on. The level of granularity and the sophistication of analyses I can do continues to grow every year.

But it's a challenge too because data doesn't necessarily equate to “the customer”. Consumers are human beings with emotions and behaviors. At times, they behave predictably, but there are irrational components to human behavior as well.

You have to look through the eyes of the customer as you do the analyses. If the data says something, it doesn't mean it's necessarily true; it could just be a measurable correlation but not necessarily a root explanation or causation. So, you need rigorous, accurate measurement and testing to really understand what experiences are driving results.

How can you ever really know how customers feel about your retail experience?

Increasingly on the web, with all its digital and technical capabilities, we have to work harder to be customer-centric. We need a whole set of novel solutions that go beyond the data and get more into behavioral and consumer insights that tell us not only how people are doing things on your website but why. With Clicktale we can drill down to individual user sessions, visualize consumer experiences and understand how attention is or isn’t working on a page.

With both quantitative, and more importantly, qualitative feedback you can really see those consumer behaviors and get insights into what they really mean, whether we are actually eliminating pain and friction, and meeting expectations on all important aspects of the journey.

Clicktale is evolving in some very new and important ways, and is starting to get into questions like “How do I make sense of all the data that is available?” It's easy to get into a sort of a needle-in-a-haystack problem: How do I even know what to look for? How can I start to find the patterns and distinguish them from the noise?

Clicktale can take massive amount of data, and make sense of questions like:

On complex sites and as we try to move through the hierarchy of creating great customer experiences, these can become very powerful signals for understanding how consumers are engaging and what that means for me as a retailer.

Does data-driven decision-making mean different things for brick and mortar versus digital?

I may have a thousand brick and mortar stores, but I can test something in just one or two of them. If it's a disaster, I've affected the sales of one or two stores but have protected the thousand. Online, often it's all or nothing. Sure, you do A/B testing and multivariate testing online to take samples of the population, but at some point you've got to just go in and make big changes and watch the data closely to see how it’s working. For example, if I feature key categories at the top of my site in my primary navigation, adding or removing one can have double digit percentage implications for my overall sales in those categories. There are immediate, direct-response elements I can measure, which let me be very data-driven and can give me incredible near-term results. But there's still the tension of not knowing what the long-term implications are.

This is easy to demonstrate with email. If I double the number of emails I send, my email attributed sales will immediately go up, but I'm also going to erode my brand, erode my customer satisfaction, and ultimately over weeks or months, I'm going to harm my business.

Data-driven decisions don't get you all the way. You have to be very aware of the potential implications of and responses to the decisions you’re making, even if they’re data driven.

Any final words of wisdom?

Creating a successful retail experience is all about the customer – focusing on all touchpoints, from inspiration to transaction, getting rid of the pain, getting rid of the friction, not sucking, and making sure you're on point in all important aspects of the process so you can meet expectations. Then, as you build momentum and as you earn the respect of your consumers, you can start to elevate the game, and set expectations that everyone else gets measured against. That's how you win long-term loyalty and create amazing retail experiences.

Be sure to check out the upcoming posts in this series, in which Joe Megibow discusses the challenges and opportunities facing retailers in the omnichannel world, and the blurring boundaries between brick-and-mortar and e-retail.

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