Bringing together digital and physical shopping experiences

Bringing together digital and physical shopping experiences

Microsoft’s Pinar Salk explains how unified commerce is benefitting retailers like The L’Oréal Group

Rebecca Gibson |

This article first appeared in the Winter issue of The Record.

French cosmetic company The L’Oréal Group wants its global customers to enjoy a unique immersive and customised digital experience whenever they visit the online stores of its 32 international beauty brands. After adopting Sitecore’s customer experience management software on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, The L’Oréal Group is well on its way to achieving this aim.

Using Sitecore’s platform, the company built a central enterprise framework for customer experience management so it can quickly deliver connected digital beauty experiences in multiple languages and countries. The L’Oréal Group’s team gains real-time insights about each individual customer who interacts with its brands to create compelling marketing content that is specifically relevant to them. Now that the marketing team can engage with customers in a personalised way, The L’Oréal Group expects to boost sales and customer loyalty.

According to Pinar Salk, Microsoft’s industry solutions director for retail, The L’Oréal Group is just one of many retail brands that is exploring new and more innovative ways to put the customer experience at the centre of their business model.

“Products and prices are no longer key differentiators for retailers; now they beat competitors by offering a personalised and connected customer experience across all channels,” Salk says. “To date, it’s been very challenging for most retailers to deliver this experience because they have disparate physical and digital customer engagement channels, as well as separate systems for their marketing, product, sales and corporate teams.”

 To provide customers with a more consistent cross-channel shopping experience, many retailers have adopted omnichannel solutions that stitch together all their systems. This includes everything from their online store, to their social media sites, in-store kiosks and beacons, POS devices, and back-end systems for customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning. However, Salk claims that the real breakthrough is the new unified commerce business model.

 “Beyond omnichannel is unified commerce, which brings all physical and digital channels together in real time,” she explains. “When any of the retailer’s operational systems captures customer data, this information is instantly fed into the unified customer experience management platform and becomes visible in every channel. This gives retailers an accurate 360-degree overview of every individual’s preferences, purchase history, social media presence and more. Consequently, they can immediately identify a customer and deliver the same seamless, personalised experience whenever and wherever they interact with them.”

For example, a consumer can start her shopping journey using a retailer’s bot in her living room and create a list of clothes to try. When she goes to the store, beacons connected to the retailer’s mobile app would detect her presence and notify a sales associate who will be able to see consumer’s information, try list and recommended items. The store associate can use the information to capitalise on cross-sell and upsell opportunities that might otherwise have been missed. Meanwhile, the consumer can continue her shopping journey by scanning items with her mobile app and adding them to her try list. When she is trying on clothes in her assigned fitting room, she will be able to use a kiosk pre-populated with her try list to ask for a different size or add a recommended item. Unified commerce allows retailers to combine the best of physical and digital assets and proactively engage with a customer in the right way, at the right time, changing and migrating inside a single transaction across the customer’s shopping journey.

“When customers can’t find the same products and discounts on a retailer’s online and physical stores, they get frustrated which means they’re more likely to go elsewhere to buy the product,” comments Salk. “A customer should be able to start their shopping journey by looking for products on their laptop at home, then seamlessly move to a mobile app to access a personalised discount while they’re on the bus, and instantly pick up where they left off as they walk into the store.”

Certainly, emphasis Salk, making customers feel like valued individuals is key to boosting loyalty and driving sales.

“Customers are greeted by name and receive tailored product recommendations and offers when they visit a retailer’s online stores so why shouldn’t they get the same service in physical stores?” asks Salk. “People feel important if a store associate addresses them personally, knows their likes and dislikes, and guides them to the products they’ve been looking at online, or recommends products that best suit their tastes, needs and lifestyle.”

Salk adds: “Unified customer experience management should be a top priority for retailers who want to remain competitive in the age of the connected customer. Together with our partners Sitecore, Episerver and Orckestra, Microsoft is using its secure, scalable enterprise cloud and mobile app development platform to develop unified customer experience management solutions that will enable retailers to achieve this goal.”

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