As the world adjusts to the post-COVID landscape, tracking consumers’ needs has never been more critical for retailers and brands. Will consumers continue to value the convenience of shopping online, or will they migrate to brands that deliver an immediate “sense of happiness, comfort, and relief” as Forrester just predicted?

As the Ipsos Market Strategy and Understanding team has explored, both digital and physical touchpoints themselves are converging. Now, new types of shoppable experiences, DTC models, and social commerce, are blurring the lines between online and offline.

Yes, convergent commerce is here.

And social listening (and more specifically, its successor: AI-enabled consumer intelligence) is essential to stay one step ahead of the next wave of Commerce and where shifting customer journeys are leading your best clients and influencers.

How you prepare and where you focus should start with a fresh look at consumer intelligence to understand how consumers are behaving online and offline. Intelligent technology can help sift through these signals, and in turn, you’ll be able to spot meaningful shifts in buying habits and what makes a ‘good’ shopping experience for buyers on the path to purchase.

However, what does that mean for in-store shopping now and into the future? Where do consumer insights (or social listening) come into play? And how and where can insights deliver the most impact in light of these predictions?

Consumer Insights Unveil The Shifting State of Shopping

According to recent research, over 70% of retail sales will come from stores, even as 2020 saw explosive growth for eCommerce.

Convergent commerce may be the new buzzword, but hybrid shopping has been in the works for a while.

For instance, we’ve already seen online providers opening retail outlets and long-standing big-box retailers remaking themselves as omnichannel merchants. Who can forget how some of the most visible hybrid shopping initiatives (think Amazon buying Whole Foods) are not about stores but rather all about the data.

When it comes to the customer journey, according to a recent survey by Accenture & Ipsos on consumer behaviors, >50% of consumers have widely adopted researching online before buying in-store. It’s clear that even as retailers and brands rush to “get digital,” consumers have already taken the lead in blurring the lines between in-store and digital shopping experiences.

With this in mind, businesses need to “think hybrid” even as they invest in emerging channels where convergent commerce is evident. As consumers, you’ve probably already seen the accelerated developments that came out of the pandemic world like QR codes, loyalty and rewards programs with offline and online experiences, and SMS.

Along with the uptick in using these marketing channels to traditional eCommerce, we’ve started to see a less traditional shopping journey.

‘Channel thinking’ that retailers were so familiar with has become out-of-date. Now that buy buttons are virtually everywhere, do retailers need to think about consumer awareness and education (and gathering feedback) at every stage of the journey?

New Shopping Models Demand Smarter (AI-Powered) Solutions

When you look at all the new channels, review sites, and social networks, plus first-party data, search data, and other insights, it’s clear that convergent commerce requires a lot more than traditional web analytics or VOC data; it requires a new approach to social intelligence.

Yes, behaviors have changed with COVID.

However, even while eCommerce adoption accelerated rapidly in the early weeks of lockdowns, Ipsos’ most recent study shows that the desire to shop at physical stores never went away. We can already see patterns where browsing/researching online and buying/picking up in the store continues to blur depending on the category or demographic.

Getting ahead of these shifting trends is driving the need for new approaches to gathering new data points, making sense of them, and packaging insights to support strategic planners and decision-makers.

This is how hybrid AICI can help. Instead of thinking of digital as replacing physical places, innovators in the DTC space will use ongoing insights and analytical frameworks to find the specific outcomes consumers want from their shopping experiences.

At Synthesio, we’re helping pave the way to innovative approaches to commerce that resonate with your customers no matter where their buying journey takes them. Just click here to arrange a demo with our team of experts.

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