Traditionally, most brands sold their products through stores or websites they controlled. But today, the retail customer journey is increasingly starting outside the physical and digital spaces that brands control. Many consumers start–and sometimes finish–their journey through apps like TikTok and Instagram, via online marketplaces, or even smart speakers.

With these new emerging digital platforms, a brand no longer has to own a physical or e-commerce store to sell its products. Take for example Mr. Beast, one of Youtube’s most popular creators. Mr. Beast doesn’t own stores or restaurants, yet he has managed to drive millions in revenue via his “virtual restaurant brand,” Mr. Beast Burger. Mr. Beast brings the brand and audience, but partners bring the products and services.

This is an example of what Rob Garf calls “shopping at the edge”— a new retail model where brands meet consumers wherever they are, whether in the physical world or in the metaverse. Rob Garf – VP and GM, Retail at Salesforce, and Jon Suarez-Davis, SVP, Marketing Strategy & Innovation at Salesforce share advice on how your brand should position itself for these changes during a recent CMO Club virtual roundtable.

Retail, from the beginning of time, was all about pulling consumers to their four walls. That was physical for a long time, moved virtual, and now it’s about pushing the brand to wherever the consumers are. Not only for top of funnel demand generation — but actually embedding the buy button. – Rob Garf

The shopping mall of the future

  • In the physical world, retailers strive to place their shops in high-traffic locations where life happens. But with life increasingly happening online, smart retailers are also bringing their business to emerging digital platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, and Discord.
  • Digital-first brands are recognizing the power of having their products in physical stores, and many are taking steps to get their products out into the world via third-party physical stores that feature digital-first brands.
  • Consumers now spend much of their time online and appreciate the convenience of e-commerce, but sometimes want to visit a physical store still where they can experience products.
  • The shopping mall of the future is most likely going to be a hybrid shopping experience of digital and physical spaces both within and outside of a brand’s direct control.

If you think about it from the consumers’ perspective, they just want to find the most convenient place to buy. – Rob Garf

Physical retail and emerging digital platforms working together

  • Many brands make the mistake of seeing their physical and digital channels as independent or even competing entities, but research shows customers don’t experience them that way. 
  • Most brands fall into one of two categories:
    • Legacy brands that have a strong brick-and-mortar presence and are expanding into the digital space.
    • Direct-to-consumer digital-first brands that see benefits to having items physically available in stores and are beginning to experiment with retail/brick-and-mortar sales.
  • The customer journey is taking place in both retail and digital mediums – traversing nine touch points across discovery and purchase, according to Salesforce research. A customer may buy an item via Instagram, go to a physical store to exchange an item, and then place a second order based on an email promotion a few weeks later.
  • Shoppers often research purchases before visiting retail locations and many consumers even research products on their mobile devices while in stores.

We found 60% of digital transactions are influenced by the physical store, either via demand being generated or demand being fulfilled. – Rob Garf

Providing a seamless experience across physical and digital

  • The average retail organization uses 40+ different systems to engage customers across touchpoints. 
  • If your physical retail and digital channels are not in sync, your customers will have a disjointed experience. Keep in mind that 80% of consumers will abandon a retailer after 3 bad experiences.
  • While two-thirds of people want a unique shopping experience, only one-third of retailers have the ability to provide personalized promotions, prices, and products across channels.
  • By aggregating your data across channels, your brand can focus on reaching customers where they want to be reached–in person and/or on emerging digital platforms.
  • Reducing friction in the buying experience will ultimately increase overall business revenue.

➡️  Join your peers for an upcoming CMO Club virtual roundtable. Check out the calendar of events