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Business Blog

Hey Google, what do shoppers want and how do I deliver it?

Anita Temple headshot
Anita Temple
January 2023

We kicked off the new year with “Go Composable or Go Bust” — a blog about the #1 takeaway from Modern Commerce Day 2022. For the third blog in our six-part series, we’re providing highlights from the keynote given by Carrie Tharp, VP of Retail & Consumer at Google Cloud. Carrie’s presentation was filled with insights, advice and predictions for the future. To fully benefit from Carrie’s expertise and learn how Google Cloud is evolving to support retailers as eCommerce evolves, watch the session video.

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While years of working at Fossil, Neiman Marcus and Google helped shape Carrie Tharp’s impressive retail expertise, she opened her presentation at Modern Commerce Day 2022 by sharing her first taste of retail — working at her grandparents' grocery store. “I learned a lot about customer service; being hyper-local, personalization, and really just knowing your customer and meeting them where they are.”

Today, as VP of Retail & Consumer at Google Cloud, Carrie immerses herself in learning and understanding the customer mindset to assist retailers and Google in delivering these expectations. She describes her job as “a curator of all the best-of-breed technology out there from a partner ecosystem and Google, to help you [the retailer] accelerate what you are trying to do from a digital perspective.”

It’s more critical than ever for brands to always be ready to meet customers wherever they are.
Carrie Tharp

Vice President, Retail & Consumer, Google Cloud

It’s not news that commerce and consumers have changed dramatically over the past five years, and as Carrie explains, “There’s an ongoing evolution of what it means to shop.” What this means, she says, is that it’s more critical than ever for brands to always be ready to meet customers wherever they are.

From retail media networks and social commerce to marketplaces and ultra-fast delivery services, commerce has become, “this timeless march forward of just — table stakes — what it takes [for retailers] to be relevant in the digital space today.”  But, even with everything happening in the retail environment, Carrie stresses you need to remember each opportunity won’t have the same relevance to your brand. 

She also points out that you need to recognize that most retailers are operating in what she calls, “the messy middle,” where you can’t necessarily compete with or copy what brands like Shein and Uber are doing. However, you still have to make sure you understand what your customers want today, and keep ahead of what they might want tomorrow. “You should interact in a way that’s appropriate for you, but in that mindset of meeting the customer where they are and organically having that discovery moment — that most likely, won’t be on your site.”

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What’s interesting, she pointed out, is that “At the end of the day, the steps in the shopping journey are still the same.” What’s different is how consumers traverse those steps. “It's no longer just about creating data models and constructs and presenting information in an interesting or engaging way and using visuals.”

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Carrie’s viewpoint, shared by Google, is that what retailers need to be thinking about now is commerce without boundaries — “It’s frictionless. It’s not necessarily exclusively on your site. It’s meeting your customers where they are and using the best capabilities to make the experience seamless and really delight your customers.”

To gain more modern commerce insights from Carrie as well as benefit from the stories and perspectives of 11 more thought leaders from major brands including Nuts.com, Alcon, Mars Wrigley, and Scentbird, download the full Modern Commerce Day Report 2022

Carrie’s top 5 insights on consumers and retail commerce today

#1 - “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t hold true anymore

The reality is consumers are now using five or more channels in their shopping journey. What that means is there’s a very complex, multi-touch journey that goes well beyond the boundaries of your eCommerce and your physical store site.

#2 - Access to information translates into conversions

Customers want to know before they go. They want to be able to confirm that you have a product in stock. As a retailer, you have to expose data in ways that you didn’t have to five to 10 years ago.

#3 - Consumers plan in advance and shop earlier

Peak shopping season for seasonal events used to be about two months out. Today, customers start searching five to seven months ahead. Retailers need to recognize, “your technology has to be ready, reliable and scalable for a much longer period of time.”

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#4 - There are new needs around every corner

Personalized. Local. Relevant. This is what shoppers want today. As an example, Carrie pointed to Google 2021 research which reported an 800% YoY growth in “in stock near me” searches and 60% YoY growth in “buy one get one (BOGOs)." This means there’s a “constant flow of tweaking your experience and your messaging to what is relevant to customers today.”

#5 - Don’t dismiss the metaverse and crypto

“It wasn’t too many years ago that Google was talking about the rise of mobile,” Carrie points out. "People didn’t believe consumers would buy certain products online — and certainly not on mobile.” Today, most retailers have 50%+ of their traffic coming from mobile. So, “it’s coming, it’s next,” she says.  The same goes for crypto, you don’t have to jump on it now, but Carrie shared a telling statistic, “50% of millennials that are millionaires today have 25% or more of their wealth in crypto.”

Anita Temple headshot
Anita Temple
January 2023

Anita J. Temple is the Corporate Journalist at commercetools. She was a fashion editor at Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) and W Magazine before launching a career as a freelance writer and creative producer. She has written content and worked on a wide range of marketing projects for companies including Dreamworks, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Verizon, and Adidas.

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