The retail customer journey today is non-linear, with multiple channels available for people to browse and buy. The massive shift towards e-commerce and the intersection of social media and commerce have disrupted the marketplace. And the pandemic has only accelerated this disruption.

For traditional retailers, these seismic changes pose a huge challenge. We would have felt this impact as well hadn’t we taken a conscious decision to invest heavily in technology early on. Till a few years back, PUMA in India was reliant on its strong distribution network and offline channel of over 370 stores. But when we realised that our customers were moving their buying decisions online, we took this as an opportunity to make significant investments to enhance our online shopping experience.

Today, is our brand's largest store. Our customers have a smoother shopping experience because we re-architected the site on Salesforce Commerce Cloud. The online site is more responsive, and features more accurate filters. Visitors are shown the right products based on their needs. We have a scalable, robust, and flexible e-commerce platform that is able to handle a surge in volumes. In fact, we have seen a 4-5x increase in business on normal days and nearly a 10x increase on days when we have special events.

Here are some of the lessons we learnt along our journey of building a strong omnichannel presence and providing a more intuitive customer experience: 

  1. Get strategic about building your brand online: Don’t look at your online platform as a mere transaction channel. It should be the nodal point of all your digital marketing strategy - from pushing the customer along the sales funnel to creating advocacy. Compelling stories that hero the customer, relevant search, intuitive customer experience – all these are the hallmarks of a strategic approach to creating your brand perception online.

  2. Position your website as a 24*7 shop: Without a doubt, your website needs to be attractive, easy to navigate and provide users with a fantastic online shopping experience. This is possible only when your website is highly responsive, can handle huge spikes in traffic, provides 24*7 customer service, support pages are fully mobile-friendly, and content enables that seamless user experience.

  3.  Identify the most promising, effective communication channel: Not all your communication channels will resonate well with your audience. Identify which channels keep your potential customers most engaged and encourage them to proceed with the purchase. For instance, we found that our customers engaged more with Instagram, and we used it to guide their journey to the website where they completed the transaction. Similarly, some brands may find that customers prefer using online channels for research and reviews, while in-store may cater to the need for quicker receipt of the product.

  4. Leverage social media to stir up engagement: Use data visualisation tools for insights about your customers by tapping data available on social platforms. Prioritise social media communication - shoppers consider their friends’ online reviews while buying. Remember, providing customer service through social listening also calls for quick turnaround time in terms of responses. Do you know, 32% of clients demand responses within 30 minutes of their first communication?

  5. Make search more than just keywords: Search should be user-friendly. It needs to offer relevant search results and intelligent recommendations that can make the transaction journey more effective. By having accurate filters and showing visitors the right products based on their needs, the chances of converting a casual browser into a buyer are high. Search can be a powerful opportunity for your brand to create personalised engagement when you integrate powerful content and predictive recommendations with precise search capabilities.

  6.  Build connected customer experiences: Your customer needs to be able to seamlessly move from one channel to another. For instance, if a customer starts browsing products on your social channel, they should be able to move smoothly to your e-commerce platform, or from your mobile application to in-store purchase. The customer’s path may vary, but their experience across each of these paths need to be integrated, giving them a connected and superb customer experience.

  7.  Invest in the right technology: You need to invest in technology that will scale as your business grows. And is robust and reliable. This is especially important for an online marketplace where an unexpected traffic surge may cause downtime. Your underlying tech solution should also be flexible and customisable, allowing you to add new features, functionalities and products without any interruption to the customer experience. Most importantly, while building your strategy for omnichannel engagement, find a technology platform that can help you personalise your customer engagement.

For us, Salesforce Commerce Cloud ticked all the boxes. It has helped us go to market a lot faster and improve our shopping experience. As we look towards building personalisation at scale and providing a more intuitive customer journey, we believe Commerce Cloud will help us innovate faster

Watch Fernandez speaking about how PUMA India is using technology to offer consumers a personalised and delightful online shopping experience.

Also read:

Optimising Retail Opportunities in a Covid-19 World

How Ready are you for the eCommerce Surge?