To say that digital has changed the playing field for brands in recent years is an understatement. Technological innovation has sped up the transformation of commerce, blurred the boundaries between physical and virtual, and now governs relationships between brands and consumers, beyond the products or services they offer.
Brands have entered the age of unified commerce. This is an age in which the idea of place is less important than that of the customer journey. An age in which the buying experience in physical and digital stores is as important as customer service (61% of people in France are prepared to leave a brand if the customer service is unsatisfactory*). An age in which the challenge is not so much to inform as it is to capture the attention of highly connected (75% of people in France have a smartphone and use it as their main means of accessing the Internet**) and, therefore, highly sought-after consumers.
Experience and personalisation are two essential factors in the ability of brands to progress from indifference to attention. In their ability to transform a fleeting interaction into a memorable one. In their ability to make consumers want to come back, again and again, despite new and incessant temptations. In this age of unified commerce, the experience offered by brands must be persuasive and build trust. It must accompany consumers’ journeys and adapt to their changing expectations.
This paradigm shift in the retail sector began with the advent of e-commerce and data as a central tool in the relationship between brands and consumers. By offering comprehensive and personalised catalogues, which can be accessed rapidly, simply and at all times, as well as ultra-responsive customer service, companies such as Amazon, Alibaba and Google have made agility and customisation the new standards in commerce. Today, these standards govern consumers’ expectations, whatever the nature of their interaction with a brand.
In this age of unified commerce, more than ever, brands must develop their agility in order to attract the attention of consumers. The success of Digital Native Vertical Brands (DNVB) – such as Slip Français, Sézane and Made.com – which has opened up a new path between traditional retailers and e-commerce giants, illustrates this ongoing quest. By placing consumers at the heart of their business models and continuously enriching the experience they offer, these brands have managed to capture part of consumers’ available attention time.
The key for brands lies in creating a unified, coherent and continuous experience, which creates a link between the various possible interactions with consumers, in order to convert this attention into memorisation. The opening of physical stores by DNVBs therefore responds less to a need to create additional retail spaces as it does the need to extend and enrich the consumer experience through places to be explored that resonate with the brand’s world.
This challenge is all the more important because the vast majority of consumers (77%***) now favour usage over possession. Within this context, experience takes precedence over the product and price, and is a central factor in value creation for brands. It brings them closer to their consumers by creating meaning and an emotional link that transcends usage and enriches daily life.
*Source: SAP Hybris – “Consumer Insights 2017”
**Source: Baromètre du numérique 2018
***Source: Observatoire Société de Consommation 2018
Originally published in Les Echos
CEO – SQLI