John Ross | October 8, 2013

Shoppers are ready for digital. More than ready. In fact, they're waiting -- impatiently -- for CPG/grocery retailers to provide the same kind of digital experience that is "business as usual" in other industries. Shopper experiences with airlines, insurance companies, etc. have taught them that digital media applied to purchasing makes shopping experiences faster, better and smarter. It's not a lesson that everyone has had.

That not everyone has caught on is the bad news. The good news is that the gap between shopper expectations and existing digital delivery is creating real opportunity for those marketers dexterous enough to respond and respond appropriately. That said, leveraging this demand by shoppers for increased engagement is going to require more than just dumping digital content into the space. Retailers' biggest challenge will be merging the digital and physical worlds into one seamless experience that is more compelling than a pure digital play.

How best for retailers to respond and leverage the opportunity?

Most immediately, retailers must recognize that when it comes to digital it is possible to give the shopper what they want. What the shopper wants, more than anything, is a personalized experience. They want to be part of a relationship. They want to be recognized when they "arrive," they want their previous engagement to be acknowledged and they want to be provided relevant, dynamic content via their preferred channel. The data exist to drive this content development and the technology is in place to execute distribution. (We can talk about both offline.)

But, acting with even the best intentions doesn't guarantee success. Shoppers are expecting retailers to earn their trust. To do that, retailers must deliver — with every outreach — appropriate, targeted deals. The relevance must be evident and consumer satisfaction must be achieved in the fewest clicks possible or even the most creative offer will wind up in the digital dumpster.

When it comes to digital, manufacturers already have a seat at the table -- anteing up $35 billion a year in shopper marketing and digital offers, according to In-Store Marketing institute. And, we know consumers are already engaged with, according to the Institute, 62 percent of shoppers participating in at least one "digital deal" for half or more of their shopping trips. Now, it's time for retailers to go "all in."

I'd like to know how you think retailers should most immediately respond to the opportunities presented by digital. Please share your comments below.