How retailers can re-imagine the shopper journey.

The future of retail is here. Technology is evolving at an exponential clip. At the same time, customer behavior is changing because consumers have unprecedented access to information. How consumers shop, what they purchase and why has outpaced much of the thinking behind today’s retail innovation strategies. For retailers to change, though, takes deep exploration of the connected customer, their expectations and behavior, and not just leaning on yesterday’s standards when applying today’s top technologies. And all of this starts with understanding how mobile has reshaped the shopper journey.

As recently as a few years ago, a shopper would either go online, browse a catalog, or walk the store aisles when looking for ideas and inspiration. When shoppers visited a store, they would seek to learn more about a product by reading signage or talking to a representative. They would either buy on the spot or head home to buy online. The point is that a shopper interacted with channels independently. But now mobile

has changed this picture. Whereas consumers used to be more loyal to bands, today, they turn to whichever brand can fulfill their need in real-time moment. This behavior has created what Google calls, “micro-moments

What are micro-moments and how should retailers respond?

Micro-moments are intent-driven, mobile-first moments, when a consumer reaches for his or her smartphone as a go-to advisor and assistant. In these moments, consumers have specific intentions and they’re looking for insights and utility in real-time. For retailers, this means big (and unprecedented) opportunities to be there and be useful for mobile consumers 


Shopping in a micro-moment world often starts when people have a need or desire to purchase a product and they begin by looking for ideas and options. This leads to more research on sites such as YouTube, Pinterest, Houzz, et al. And, once they’ve explored videos, reviews, etc., they eventually make a purchase. These micro-moments tend to fall into one of three categories: 

  1. I-need-some-ideas (moment of inspiration when a shopper has expressed interest in a category but doesn’t know the exact product he/she wants to buy or where he/she wants to buy it)
  2. Which-one’s-best (research moment when a shopper is narrowing down her options)
  3. I-want-to-buy-it (shopper makes a decision and buys either online or in-store)

In each of these moments, it’s important for a retailer to both be there AND be useful. And, because most of these moments are now happening on mobile, it’s not as important for a shopper to be present in-store anymore as it is for a retailer to be present wherever and whenever a person is shopping. They search for ideas, explore information, and make decisions, all from their smartphone anytime, anywhere.

Consumer behavior on mobile is shaping retail industry trends.

For example, foot traffic in retail stores has declined by 57% in the past five years. At the same time, the value of every visit has nearly tripled. Mobile activity is actually driving informed local engagement. It turns out that consumers use their smartphones before visiting a local store to gather ideas, research products, and search for local information.


But research isn’t the only way mobile is changing the shopping experience. Shoppers also want to buy on their mobile device. In fact, 34% percent of online retail purchases now happen on mobile devices.

With all of these changes in mobile consumer behavior, are you ready to meet these shoppers in the moments that matter most?

What Google suggests

In its new retail playbook, Google offers a few suggestions 


Be there: Identify the most important micro-moments and commit to being there, whenever and wherever a shopper is searching, especially on mobile.

Be useful. In a consumer’s moment of need, meet them by providing valuable information—whether it’s product reviews, video tutorials, or the ability to purchase right away 

In one such example, Williams-Sonoma Inc., invested in mobile because the company saw a future beyond its long-standing direct mail approach. Catalogs were once seen as the cornerstone of its relationship with consumers. People would review the catalog page by page, bookmark pages, and bring it into a Williams-Sonoma store to ask sales assistants for help. In a mobile-first world however, Williams-Sonoma is now also  focusing on “I-need-some-ideas” moments by studying customer intent (what is the customer trying to discover?), understanding their context (for example, are they around a Williams Sonoma store?) and identifying key audiences (is this customer a high-value customer?) 

One of its big mobile investments was to reach its on-the-go customers during their moments of intent. Williams-Sonoma’s customers often turn to video while planning for and cooking meals. So, the company developed a series of video content aimed at addressing the needs of people who wanted to know how to cook a healthy meal or how to use a spiralizer. As a result, video became one of its key storytelling vehicles on the brand’s YouTube channel. Their shift to digital, and specifically to mobile and video, resulted in a 70% increase in mobile sales year over year and a 51% overall increase in e-commerce sales year over year. 


In addition to video, local engagement via mobile was also a significant converter. Let’s say a customer was searching for products near its stores, Williams-Sonoma set out to be able to surface local product availability so that mobile shoppers could easily find out whether the products they were searching for were in-stock at the closest store. But it’s more than that. Once in store, Williams-Sonoma knows that shoppers were more likely to sign up for cooking classes, get knives sharpened and interact more with the brand.

The mobile shopper journey is the only one that matters

With mobile, the shopper’s journey is more pragmatic and intentional as they seek to decide the perfect brand, product, or style. As such, consumers are reaching for their mobile device and opening the door for retailers to engage them in critical micro-moments. Now more than ever, your value proposition and relevant content must be present wherever and whenever a shopper needs you. Retailers must understand intent, what the shopper wants in any given moment, and context, where they are and on which device, to uncover new ways to show up with helpful information in real-time. Those that do…win.