The digitally enhanced retail journey

Charlie Pohl

11 November 2016

Digital is playing an increasingly significant role in shaping the retail scene.

It is crucial for retailers to consider how to distribute strategic attention across the customer journey. An effective end-to-end customer experience influences satisfaction.  A streamlined sales process offers the biggest opportunities to the cost to serve.

The smart retailers, of course, recognise that digital is a whole-of-business enabler.

Digital and the retail journey

In seeking opportunities to reduce the cost of doing business and improving the top line it’s important to consider both Front of House (customer facing) and Back of House (internal operations).

The sales process

1. Demand Generation

Demand generation is the process of bringing consumers into the purchase funnel. The task is handled using a combination of:

  • Controlled assets: website(s) and print media.
  • Earned assets: social traction and public relations.
  • Paid assets: display advertising, sponsorship and search engine marketing.

This stage of the journey historically receives the most attention, which often compromises other stages that exert greater influence over customer experience.

Scanning product at store

2. Discovery

This is often a distinct stage in which the consumer hones in on particular products. Digital is increasingly at the forefront of this process. Online research typically takes place prior to an offline purchase.

Fortunately, the days of static online brochures are well behind us. Tailored content served to customers based on demographic and past behaviour is fast becoming the norm.

3. Selection

As any frontline team member knows, the step from selection to payment can feel like a chasm.

Digital assists by nudging the customer towards purchase, and by broadening or changing their selection. There are literally hundreds of posts about improving conversion rates during product selection (here’s an example).

Wishlists can also be utilised to provide customer insights and drive re-marketing.

4. Payment

Until the invention of offline self-checkout, there had been very little innovation in this area for many years. Payment was once simply a binary ‘pay now or pay later’ choice. New instant credit options also warrant consideration at this stage.

Purchasing item on laptop

The essential principle behind effective payment is making it simple and avoiding nasty surprises. This is particularly true online, where dropout at this stage is a growing problem. 2015 research cited by SalesCycle showed that one of the largest causes of shopping cart abandonment was unexpected shipping costs.

5. Collection

Again, it’s important to think cross-channel.

A purchase that begins in a physical store can end in an “online-style” delivery. On the contrary online purchases can be picked up in store. While there has been a great deal of innovation in recent years around collection mechanisms, they all boil down to two fundamental options…

a) Delivery

Drones, autonomous vehicles, couriers and shared delivery services are all variations of product distribution.

b) Pickup

Besides traditional collection-at-point-of-purchase, demand to pickup products at third parties such as convenience stores, petrol stations or lockers is growing. New innovations like delivery to your car boot also fall into this category.

How will you use the above options, if at all? How do they support or detract from your value proposition? Are your underlying systems capable of working with them? These are all questions to consider carefully.

6. Aftersales

To reduce pain in this area, the best retailers minimise product returns by answering questions, systematising processes and ensuring full traceability of purchases.

For online retail experiences, making returns easier will instil confidence and increase basket size.

An often forgotten part of the journey, aftersales can be a time sink and cash burn.

Charlie Pohl

Across the customer journey

Customers expect a seamless experience.

The concept of  “Online-to-Offline” (O2O) preoccupies many retailers. Customers however expect products and offers — as well as their information and preferences — to follow them seamlessly as they move between channels.

Opportunities for innovation are also presented by connecting various points in the journey. For example, Amazon’s Dash order buttons create a direct link between aftersales and selection by guiding the customer back to the product.

One-click payment also links the discovery and payment phases, whereas click and collect (a.k.a “Buy Now & Pick Up In Store”) bridges payment and collection.

Some innovative Click & Collection solutions also embrace aftersales, and offer the ability to return items to the collection point. As an example, UK based Collect+ allows customers to pickup and return items at a convenient location, such as their local newsagent.

How Conduct Can Help

In the early days of digital, the focus was on advertising and website leads to drive demand generation and discovery. During the last decade however, companies have recognised that significant opportunities lie in the latter stages of the journey.

Simon Krambousanos Wireframing at Conduct

When we explore digital strategy and delivery, we follow a Discover – Define – Develop – Deliver process. The cycle is informed by three considerations:

  • What works for people.
  • What works for the business.
  • The appropriate technology for both the current technical landscape of our client and the designated budget.

Solutions can take the form of software, hardware or business rules and processes.


Our approach depends on the maturity and clarity defined in the statement of requirements, the culture of the organisation, and whether any third parties are involved:

  • A traditional project management approach is suitable for well defined problems. It follows a linear sequence although still allows for learning and iteration at the end of the cycle.
  • A lean/agile methodology such as our Rapid Design & Validation (RDV) framework is ideal for more open-ended problems.  It drives ideation and rapid iterative discovery delivering a validated prototype to the business for sign-off.

Sometimes the customer journey itself can benefit from greater analysis — particularly when bringing together multiple stakeholders to focus a new digital strategy.

We use customer journey maps or service design blueprints to bring further granularity to the customer story, staff interactions, technology stack or budget at each stage.

Download our Digitally-Enabled Retail Journey Canvas, or contact us to discuss how we can help drive innovation in your organisation.

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