Putting The Customer At The Heart Of The Digital Process

Today’s consumers are always connected. They expect informative, digital-led experiences throughout their purchase journey – accelerating the deployment of new technologies both in-store and online that involve and inspire as part of the sales process. Such innovation overcomes the limitations of dated retail models, encouraging higher levels of engagement and ultimately better conversion rates and higher final basket values.

Research reported by eMarketer estimates that worldwide retail ecommerce sales will increase to $4.058 trillion in 2020, making up 14.6% of total retail spending that year. A breakdown of demographic data supports the influence of ecommerce throughout the industry. 55% of internet-using baby boomers shopped online in 2015 (Eurostat). 56% of Gen X prefer to shop online vs in-store (Big Commerce), whilst 54% of all millennial purchases are made online (USA Today).

Connected portable devices make this medium highly influential on the high street. Price Waterhouse Coopers finds that whilst in store, 43% of Millennials use their smartphone to research products, 42% compare prices, 32% read reviews about the retailer and 26% access confirmation emails to pick up items purchased online. The collective use of online platforms in decision making means Millennials, whose influence is ever increasing, view smartphones, tablets, social media and stores as part of a cohesive ecosystem over individual channels. This behaviour combined with the growing demand for personalised experiences has driven the uptake of digitalisation.

Real-time 3D visualisation underpins the most advanced omnichannel platforms, delivering consistent, interactive brand propositions across all touch points. By delivering a highly-detailed model of the product alongside a suite of intuitive, interactive tools, users can digitally explore and influence at their whim, something that was not possible to the same extent via traditional 2D visualisation methods.

This puts the customer at the heart of the buying process, empowering them to tailor their purchase to their precise needs. By doing so, the retailer removes all potential barriers relating to taste and preference, allowing clients to formulate their ideal version of a product.

Such self-expression facilitates and reinforces affinity for the product/brand through involvement, making the customer part of the creation process in a way that emphasises ownership. Positive attitude formation in turn fuels advocate behaviour, increasing conversion potential and desirable message dissemination.

How is this driving new retail concepts?

The automotive industry is a prime example of how a consumer-centric focus is reshaping the retail landscape. Modernisation of the customer journey through the deployment of real-time 3D configurators allows brands to deliver their entire product range digitally, both in-store and online.

This has enabled manufacturers to create satellite stores in high footfall areas, acting as an extension of local dealerships. Such stores provide greater exposure within the marketplace, increasing overall accessibility and convenience.

Audi is at the forefront of such deployments, with modern visualisation technology powering Audi City stores worldwide. Retail deployments utilise large 4k displays and power walls, controlled by touch screen devices, alongside virtual reality experiences. Both allow for full customisation whilst catering to the variation in demographic behaviour.

Customers can decide whether to opt for a high-impact, shared experience; totally immersive, compelling alternative; or both. Such deployments can be used as both marketing and sales tools at any stage of the customer journey.

Toyota’s C-HR VR Experience drove awareness of the new concept crossover prior to production, providing a compelling way to engage its target audience months before the vehicle was available. Audi utilise its VR experience within retail outlets to facilitate consumer preference as part of the sales process. Pagani utilise VR post sale, allowing customers to tailor their bespoke hypercar prior to production.

We have seen the same visualisation solution enter the online space due to advancements in cloud technology. Customers worldwide can digitally explore and configure the exact same product models through their web browser.

With 97% of research conducted online, the internet is the most influential platform within the auto-retail space. Driving engagement amongst web users is therefore of considerable value to car brands. Audi’s rollout of ZeroLight’s cloud technology through its A4 range on audi.de delivered a 66% increase in user engagement vs the original 2D configurator, leading to significant upsell potential and a higher satisfaction ratings across a range of qualitative KPIs. This technology was also used by Pagani as part of the Huayra Roadster product launch, allowing fans to create and share their perfect car.

The way we perceive products across every touch point is becoming an interactive experience. The impact of personalisation allows these experiences to be consumer-led. The implementation of real-time 3D visuals drives higher levels of engagement, making the collective result far more influential as a brand proposition. With new technologies on the horizon, alongside the ever-decreasing barriers to entry of new commercial hardware, digitalisation will continue to reshape the customer journey for many years to come.

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