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The Experience Mandate: Going Beyond Acceptable to Exceptional

“Experience” is a huge buzzword in retail right now, but this isn’t the first time it’s been at the forefront. It’s similar to the return of bell bottoms in the late 1990s, 20 years after their heyday. For decades, retailers have meticulously planned the smells, sounds, and sights in their physical locations, tapping into shoppers’ emotions to create an experience that encourages purchasing. It’s always been about more than buying a single product;it’s about  enticing shoppers into a relationship with your brand. Digital experiences need to be equally meticulously curated, yet retailers have much less control over the context under which it’s being used. You can’t control the surrounding sounds or smells. You can’t take away visual distractions, you can’t make the shopper close all their background windows. But you can do more than you think.

For those of you that aren’t convinced, think of the rise of Abercrombie & Fitch. Yes, it was also in the late 1990s and early 2000s, so you can tell when I was growing up. I vividly remember walking into their store for the first time. It was dimly lit with black and white photos of  barely clothed beautiful people covering the walls. Trendy music was piped in, and one of the hottest guys I’d ever seen was working the register. Any size above 6 was folded up on a higher rack that I had to stand on my tip-toes to reach (this later turned out to be a big controversy for them). Abercrombie was for the cool kids, and by wearing their brand, I was one step closer.

I have no idea what I bought, but I still remember exactly how I felt — even 20 years later. The experience is seared in my mind. I doubt they intended my exact reaction, but they purposefully created an experience to sell a brand rather than just a single product. In fact, 66% of online shopping involves an emotional response by the shopper.

Even though ecommerce is not new, it continues to grow rapidly. In the U.S., ecommerce grew 15% in 2018, representing billions of dollars. We shop online, but the experience is largely grim. It’s stale and sterile – and it leads us to be overly dependent on discounts to drive purchase conversion. Shoppers hit the homepage, then a category page, then a product detail page. And if we’re lucky, the shopper iterates along those paths until they buy something. Retailers are struggling to figure out how to translate the meticulously curated in-store experience to the digital world. So why can’t retailers create that same effect on their sites today?

Simply put, it’s difficult. The digital equivalent of the in-store planogram is interactive, lifestyle driven content – outfit builders, shop-the-room, product launch pages. Retailers can’t snap their fingers and have this experiential content. It typically requires someone in marketing to dream up the idea, someone in IT to translate that vision into code, some back-and-forth on requirements, and then eventually it goes into a release cycle. In total, it’s a few days or a few weeks turnaround. When you try to scale this model to many pages across all different segments of shoppers, it becomes unwieldy.

Shoppers have marketing messages thrown at them every second. Content on social media is constantly updated. Waiting a few weeks for a single piece of content means that it’s irrelevant before it’s even gone live. And given the size of ecommerce teams today, investing that much time has a huge opportunity cost.

Salesforce launched Page Designer to tackle this exact challenge. Retailers can create templates for their content by coding custom widgets that can be easily updated by marketing teams. Brands like Ecco have seen tremendous success leveraging Page Designer in beta. Here’s where it gets really exciting: Page Designer’s extensible framework allows partners to enhance Page Designer. As a long-time Commerce Cloud partner, we knew the possibilities were tremendous for retailers. We opted for an early integration between Page Designer and our platform Creator by Zmags to enable retailers even more flexibility and free-form design – without coding.

Retailers can design and publish interactive, shoppable content without the limitations of a template. Instead of investing days or weeks to create a single digital experience, retailers can now create experiences at scale leveraging Creator and Page Designer.  Imagine what you can build!

When VP of Alliances & Strategy Lindsay Moore isn’t running partnerships at Zmags or being embarrassed at Abercrombie, she’s galavanting off on an adrenaline-based adventure.

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