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Hey, retailers! You know the experiences buyers want, but how should they be designed?

by Robert Schumacher , 02.06.2016

Good user experience (UX) in online and offline retail shopping matters.  A poor experience can poison the well, and people simply will not go back, especially if they have functional, sexier alternatives.  Another dimension of this, of course, is that paid and owned media are losing influence.  Customers talk to each other a lot, and not about brand attributes that marketers talk about. They talk about their experiences, and these experiences cover all aspects of the journey.  To fit seamlessly into consumers’ lives, users’ experiences must be mapped, measured, and elegantly designed.

Unless you've been under a rock for the last 20 years, it is no surprise that the shopping experience has morphed in ways that are almost non-recognizable.  Today, Connected Consumers can ask Echo (a wireless speaker and voice command device from Amazon) to send them a new bag of kitty litter in three seconds.  I can go into a store and pay for a pile of groceries by tapping my card.  Using an image recognition app, I can order a bottle of wine online.  Suffice to say that it seems that almost any product I can think of, I can acquire using multiple types of technology and media.

Why UX is an integral part of omnichannel shopping

The confluence of research and design skills needed to develop a seamless omnichannel shopping experience involves not only the market researcher and shopper insights teams, but the UX team as well.  Increasingly, retailers must establish ‘ecosystems’ that support the shopping experience from all angles.  These ecosystems involve having customers do multiple things: Download apps, register, buy and install new hardware, learn new gestures, and much more.

What I’m driving at here is that getting the product properly positioned in its respective category and understanding how to reach the market are necessary - but no longer sufficient - for success.  We know from our GfK Consumer Life data that customers are no longer just buying a product, they are buying an experience.


I mentioned Echo above.  In the past, configuring a device to a home network was tedious at best.  Echo is an amazing out of the box experience with a beautiful package, simple instructions, and flawless installation.  These experiences do not come easy.  They come with a lot of UX research to ensure that the once tedious task is now a pleasant one.  I’m guessing Amazon understands that without perfecting this part of the purchase journey, they would have thousands of ‘no trouble found’ Echos sitting in a warehouse ready to be resold at a discount.

Successful retailers understand the new reality of the omnichannel consumer, and know that the ‘whatever, whenever’ culture demands that user experience is seamless across all devices.  If retailers don’t understand this, customers will simply delete their app and move on.

Learn more about the Future of Retail and how evolving technology and consumer needs and expectations will impact how you design and deliver product, service, and omnichannel experiences.

Robert Schumacher is an Executive Vice President of User Experience at GfK. Please email robert.schumacher@gfk.com with your comments.