Forrester's Brendan Witcher discusses how companies can retain digitally savvy shoppers, while also sharing current trends that are impacting the future of consumer behavior. On Oct. 19, he will present at P2PI LIVE in Chicago.
On Oct. 19 at P2PI LIVE, Forrester Research’s Brendan Witcher will present a session titled “Conditional Love: What It REALLY Takes to Keep Customers Faithful.”
Witcher, vice president and principal analyst of digital business strategy at Forrester, will dive into what it means to really understand a customer, to personalize an experience, to create frictionless paths to purchase and to deliver perceivable value for channel-agnostic, digitally savvy consumers.
We recently talked with Witcher about what kind of experiences companies can implement to attract digitally savvy shoppers and retain their loyalty as well as the current trends impacting the future of consumer behavior.
For a full description of his P2PI LIVE session and to see the full agenda, visit the event website.
P2PI:What kinds of experiences are today’s digitally savvy consumers demanding from brands, and are companies currently able to meet those expectations?
Witcher: Today’s consumers want brands to finally deliver on the often-declared promise of “surprising and delighting customers.” How many individuals walk away from a shopping journey feeling this level of excitement about a brand? Forrester’s data shows it’s almost non-existent. The real shame is that companies could be meeting — and even exceeding — consumers’ expectations, but organizations are simply not doing the difficult and frankly unsexy work of understanding the customer well enough to accomplish this. As such, regardless of who they shop with, consumers find a form of digital sameness that is pervasive along the entire path to purchase.
P2PI: What is the impact of this reality on consumer behavior and brand strategies?
Witcher: Companies should manage the ubiquity of unremarkable digital experiences as a negative but capitalize on it as a positive. With so much exposure to brands digitally mirroring the experiences of one another, consumer indifference toward whom they shop with has exploded. For example, when people say they are going to shop at Amazon, they’ll often state, “I’ll just get that from Amazon.” The word “just” inserted into that statement is an indicator of how indifferent consumers are to who they buy from and what brand they buy. However, this scenario is also an opportunity for those brands willing to take just a few steps towards creating more perceivably relevant and value-added shopping experiences.
P2PI: What must brands do to achieve and sustain deeper levels of loyalty among customers?
Witcher: As difficult as it may be, brands need to let go of the feeling that they “know” a customer. Far too often companies build the starting points of their engagement and marketing strategies with visions of what great experiences will look like. But here’s the harsh reality: You cannot create great experiences for individuals that you barely understand. Ergo, brands must first build and execute a vision and strategies for understanding customers better than the competition. This is the way to differentiation in the market: using richer and more relevant data to create small but notably personalized moments of engagement across the entire customer lifecycle.
P2PI: What emerging trends do you see impacting the future of consumer behavior?
Witcher: There are three emerging trends I believe will be the catalysts for change in the way people shop in 2023 and beyond. First, consumers attractiveness to value found in paid membership programs. From Amazon Prime to Walmart+; Sephora Same Day Unlimited to Lululemon Mirror, retailers and brands alike are training consumers to look for opportunities to pay for unlimited access to services, products and deals.
Second, the digitization of our lives has created opportunities for more moments of inline commerce — the ability to buy relevant items while engaging in historically non-digital activities. For example, the ability to buy a gift for a birthday party on Evite while digitally responding to the invite for the event.
The third trends are advancements in natural language processing (NLP). Conversational commerce is the future — our growing use of verbal interactions with AI in our homes, cars, offices, mobile devices and even the physical locations we shop will be the driver of this trend.
P2PI: Are there common elements among brands that have executed successful consumer engagement strategies?
Witcher: I’ve found the more a company focuses on solving specific customer pain points through tech and transformation, the more likely they are to win, serve, and retain customers. More specifically, brands should continuously invest in, assess, and adjust their initiatives to better remove friction and frustration throughout the customer lifecycle. It’s worth noting that this is not the same thing as trying to “surprise and delight” customers. In fact, this focus on solving pain points naturally shifts the company away from chasing the latest shiny object to a more practical strategy that will yield more sustainable and positive business outcomes.