Products aren’t enough to get shoppers’ attention in today’s retail world. Consumers care more about the shopping experience, Forrester Research analyst Brendan Witcher said Thursday at IRCE.

Today’s consumer wants—in fact, expects—a great experience tailored to them when shopping, and it’s up to sellers to treat consumers as individuals. Retailers need to analyze what each customer wants, Forrester Research e-commerce analyst Brendan Witcher said Thursday at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

“Experience is everything. Companies today need to sell the brand’s experience, not the products,” Witcher said. “Each time a consumer is exposed to an improved digital experience, their expectations for all experiences are reset to a new, higher level.”

Brendan Witcher

Brendan Witcher, principal analyst, Forrester Research

Getting a specific view of each customer means relying on data gathered from websites, stores and anywhere else it can be found. “Today’s brands should strive to treat customers as segments of one—using profiles, not personas,” Witcher said. “An omnichannel view of the customer means a single view.” This takes personalization one step further, he said, to individualization.

StitchFix Inc. is one data-led company doing a good job today, Witcher said.

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Online personal styling service StitchFix.com, No. 59 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000, requests shoppers fill out an extensive style profile—Witcher says it can take a half-hour to complete—yet 80% of visitors who begin the process finish it.

It’s not just about getting site visitors to subscribe to a newsletter. Rather, it’s about delivering something of value that entices shoppers to divulge details about themselves and their preferences. “Most customers know companies are collecting data on them, they just want them to use it better,” Witcher said.

Companies today need to be directed by data, to drive strategic—not tactical—decisions, he said, and offered four steps to becoming data-led:

  • Identify gaps in your company’s ability to deliver on customer expectations.
  • Review each digital touchpoint for its ability to both collect and use data across the enterprise.
  • Look for opportunities for digital partnerships, such as collaborating with other retailers and discussing best practices with technology and services vendors.
  • Adopt the right culture and organizational structure for supporting a data-led strategy.
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