OK Google: how can you help innovate the shopper experience?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Google Home

You are watching Sense 8 on Netflix and hear a track in a nightclub scene you love. No idea what it is? Pause, scan back and pull out your Shazam enabled device.

Awesome – it was Phantom Studies by Marcel Dettmann. Open in Spotify and play on my Sonos? Yes please, and while you are at it add it to my workout playlist and send that to my friends…

OK, maybe I geeked out there too much for you. But this isn’t science fiction - this was last week. Could I have imagined that 5 years ago? Nope. Am I an always-on Gen Z type? Unfortunately not, but I still get it.

Now take an imaginary leap – not too far – maybe a few months hence. You are watching the same episode; Lito (you know, “the closeted telenovela star” as Wikipedia so eloquently puts it) is wearing an amazing shirt. You think: “I want that for tomorrow night.”

What do you do? How about you say: “OK Google, where can I find the shirt Lito is wearing in the rooftop scene Episode 7 Sense 8.” Seconds later your Google Home device locates a shirt your size, in H&M in your town. It gives you the distance to the store, opening times and asks if you want reserve one in your size.

It does this.

The next morning you get a text from the store manager reminding you they have reserved it for you, and if you come and collect before 6pm tonight you can have a 10% discount.

Crazy? No, it's not. What's more, it is theoretically possible right now.

Be it Alexa, Siri, Cortana or the very functionally named Assistant, the big guys are taking voice assistance seriously. And Gartner seems to agree, estimating that 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020. ComScore thinks 50% of all searches will be voice searches by that point.

So voice assistants are here to stay and are already causing disruption.

What, as a retailer or brand do you do? You could dismiss this as pure fantasy, and bemoan the “rise of the internet” and how it’s killing your physical business.

Or embrace the change. Look at how your business can begin to integrate technology into your offering. Here at Lick Creative, we curate a retail innovations lab, which showcases emerging technologies used by brands and retailers to engage shoppers in new types of immersive conversations in store to catalyse sales.

By sharing the latest innovations at retail we work with clients to answer these questions. How do you use technology to engage shoppers in a way that is meaningful for them, and create an unforgettable experience. How do you bring their online experience to life in store and integrate with POS? How can technology and “digital” be fully integrated in your offering?

As Tom Goodwin head of innovation at Zenith Media recently stated: “‘Digital’ isn’t a thing, it’s a new way of thinking and a new canvas to work with; a new series of consumer behaviors, expectations, hopes, ambitions and possibilities.”

Maybe this is a good time to mention omni-channel? (It would be rude not to!)

Wooing consumers and giving them compelling reasons to shop is getting harder and harder. With the wide spectrum of shopping channels, a multitude of information sources, numerous delivery solutions and the hyper-connected society we have seen a massive change in shopper habits.

Shoppers now expect to interact with a retail brand across multiple channels and to excel the brand must provide a seamless experience across all of them. Keeping interactions consistent across them is the challenge that the digital revolution has brought. Remember your consumers don’t differentiate between online and offline – only marketers do.

So how do you navigate this innovation maze? The key is to think about what your customer wants and not what you want. Who are your customers? What do they want and expect? Where do you think they hear about you? How do they feel about their online and offline experience?

Mark Sibborn is managing director at Lick Creative, part of the Delta Group

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