Ideas around using data insights to pinpoint what value and experience really mean to consumers as huge economic trends overlap are the obsession of brands, merchants and payments firms as the digital shift moves into a next phase of removing channel boundaries.
This emerged as a key finding of the “2022 Global Digital Shopping Index,” a PYMNTS and Cybersource collaboration, where we see merchants offering smartphone-assisted shopping features providing in-store experiences with 49% less friction than those that don’t.
Digging into this convergence of channels, modes and optimization, Cybersource vice president product, digital commerce solutions Ben Laluc and Harley-Davidson global director of eCommerce Ryan Dennis agreed that engagement is personal — and data drives it.
Harley-Davidson long ago transformed itself from a motorcycle maker into a lifestyle brand, Dennis said. And it’s learned that its eCommerce provides the ideal opening to building relationships with enthusiasts eager to express their devotion in ways that the gamut from T-shirts to trikes.
“There’s no better way to do that than through selling someone a T-shirt or a lifestyle product digitally,” he said. “We love what our dealers are doing, but we’ve found that consumers are more open to beginning their journey with us online.”
Few brands speak for themselves like Harley-Davidson, and there’s power in that. But whether a brand is an icon or an upstart, Laluc said, taking a similar long view on customer lifetime value can help it make the values it represents clear — and provide a customer experience to match.
And as mobile starts to erasing the idea of separate channels more and more, data is the key to unlocking the personalization and preference that firmly cements that relationship at every possible touchpoint.
“I think Harley would say we’re very rich in data, and maybe a little bit less rich in terms of insights and structure to action on that data, which is where we’re making a lot of our investments,” Dennis said. “Data done right is data that has a purpose and is able to be actioned.”
See also: 2022 Global Digital Shopping Index
The Power of Data Done Right
Actionable “data done right” is the opposite of the cookie-fueled internet ad experiences that are sunsetting thanks to moves by Apple and Google to end use of third-party data collection, putting the issue to bed for marketers, but creating other problems.
“There’s certain ways that you can surface product or follow somebody with a certain message that just feels a little bit overdone,” Dennis said. “It has to feel organic but smart all at the same time.”
This is the direction Harley is taking. He added that the motorcycle brand is investing in ways to turn information that consumers provide, or first-party behavioral data from its site “into different ways that we integrate that into our marketing campaigns and our paid media, or different ways that we personalize emails or that we sequence product pages for them. That’s how data’s done right.”
Laluc said this is the way of things now, using the example of a large car rental company, unnamed, needing to harmonize online booking with the physical act of picking up the car.
“How do you make that consistent for your customer, for your user? I found it very interesting how they’ve basically stored customer payment credentials at point of booking in that central site that the whole world of franchisee also benefits from in a central token vault that is independent from their payment service provider,” he said, “and enables secure access to all of the brick-and-mortar locations, including the franchisee locations.”
Unified brand expression regardless of where or how one engages is something that all players are confronting with various strategies, and it helps communicate value as well.
“One thing is clear to us: the customers all see it as one Harley, but they experience it all in very different ways,” Dennis said. “While customers do appreciate the nuance of a brick-and-mortar experience, there is research that tells us that these consumers, like with every other retailer, want their online, offline, and retail to retail experiences all to be unified and cohesive.”
‘Retail is Detail’ Comes Alive
Invoking the adage that “retail is detail,” Laluc explained approaches to keeping experiences relevant across the various cohorts that make up a base of customers.
First is recognizing that mobile itself is a retail channel, along with the fact that it’s a major piece in the consumer’s shopping toolkit. This dovetails with how consumers want their merchant relationships to be, using 2022 Global Digital Shopping Index metrics like “know me,” “value me,” have the items that I need or want, make it easy to buy, then “protect me” after.
Dennis said ways of meeting these expectations can include early access to products for loyalty members, saying it’s a great way to add value that companies that traditional shopping-oriented key performance indicators can’t account for — “excitement” and “devotion” are tough to put metrics on.
That differs from customer to customer, which is why “data done right” is dominating the agendas of more brands and merchants as each conversion (or abandonment) is crucial.
“How one defines value and the relative importance of what is perceived as valuable differs heavily depending on the type of experience, shopping or not, that we’re talking about,” Laluc said. “When you’re providing a product or service that generates consumer buying behaviors daily, weekly, or monthly, versus what it means to a luxury retailer that defines a returning customer as coming back every 18 months, you’re in two totally different worlds.”
That’s solved by removing pinch points for different types of customers, and Dennis said this is something Harley is investing in more heavily now.
Dennis said Harley’s constellation of products is hard to fashion into a cohesive experience “so there isn’t an online and offline anymore. In Harley’s world, it’s really hard to unify those. We’re thinking about how we can do that. We’ve worked with Cybersource to figure out how do we integrate some of those.”
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