Micro-moments are transforming the way consumers shop. Retailers have to win micro-moments to win omni-channel shoppers. As we head into the holiday season, Google's VP of Marketing, Lisa Gevelber, shares three ways retailers can be moments-ready, using examples from those that have seen success.

Written by
Lisa Gevelber
October 2015

This past summer, America fell in love with women's soccer. My two daughters were among the most avid fans, and they, like millions of others, got swept up in the moment.

During one match, smartphone in hand, I searched for the team jersey one of my daughters "had to have." Conveniently, an ad for a Megan Rapinoe jersey—her favorite player—appeared, signaling that the jersey was in stock at a local retailer just a few miles from our house.

This upcoming holiday season, shoppers will have plenty of these micro-moments—intent-driven I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do, and I-want-to-buy moments. These moments are big opportunities for retailers; 82% of smartphone users say they consult their phones on purchases they're about to make in a store,1 and one in three has purchased from a company or brand other than the one he or she intended to because of information received in a micro-moment.2

So, are we as brands delivering on these moments?


A new Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (HBR-AS) report (link below) sheds some light: "Most executives will have their hands full optimizing and integrating their channels, but one thing is for sure: Mobile—increasingly the entry point to a business—is the place to begin." And a recent Google-commissioned Forrester Research study of more than 200 mobile and digital decision makers echoes this: 70% of companies say that mobile has urged them to transform their businesses and experiences.

To understand how we can be better equipped for this holiday's trends (and remember that the holiday season starts sooner than you think), we've boiled down the HBR-AS and Forrester findings to three important ways retailers can be fully moments-ready, using examples of some that are already getting it right.

"It's not a store experience or an online experience; it's a mobile-first experience."

Plan for omni-channel shopping

When Macy's learned that its omni-channel customers are 8X more valuable than those who shop in only one channel, it took this as a cue about shopping behavior in general and did away with organizational siloes. Not an easy feat for a nearly 200,000-employee company with Wall Street to please.


As noted in the HBR-AS report, "What starts as a micro-moment often leads to engagement and even consummation within other channels; comScore's Local Search Study, for example, found the majority of purchases following a mobile search happened not online, but in a physical store (73%) or on the phone (16%)."

Macy's in-house restructuring kicked off earlier this year with a pilot test of the social dresses category. The company combined the online and offline merchandising and marketing teams to create a single view of inventory. This meant that all sales, stock, and on-order information was consistent and reliable across channels.

Sales and natural margin improved significantly. As a result, Macy's rolled out the new structure across retail categories. Today, Macy's omni-channel shoppers can easily complete their purchases at any moment, no matter where they are.

Retail giant Target also learned something new about its customers recently. Following 2014's successful Black Friday, it discovered that 98% of Target's guests were shopping digitally and three-quarters were starting their experience on a mobile device. For the first time, Target strategically declared mobile as its new front door to the store. Casey Carl, Target's chief strategy and innovation officer, called this revelation "a seismic acceleration." Like Macy's, the retailer decided it was time to reassess its internal structure.



"We [had] to rethink fundamentally how we design the guest experience," explains Carl. "It's not a store experience or an online experience; it's a mobile-first experience."

Target brought its online, in-store, and mobile teams together to create a "digital-first organization." The new team curates its merchandise for maximum shopper ease, and marketing dollars are invested where the majority of Target guests are shopping—online, especially on mobile.

And Target uses shared performance metrics to incentivize employees to help guests regardless of channel. Omni-channel shoppers are now Target's most valuable customers, spending 3X more on average than those who shop in a single channel.

Create customized, online-to-offline shopping experiences

Fashion label Rebecca Minkoff is a brand for millennials, by millennials. Its target audience is young, female, and stylish, and they want to shop on their own terms. That's why the brand offers a customized shopping experience by integrating the best of online into the offline world—or connected retail—using smart technologies to make everything seamless.

In its stores, a shopper can use the oversize digital displays on the walls to browse merchandise, request a fitting room (with custom lighting), and even order a drink. If she's unsure about making the purchase (she loves the leather moto jacket but she's not so sure about the matching skirt), she can save the items to her smartphone and buy them later. She may even receive a reminder or promotion related to the items she's saved, thanks to the integration of a universal ID technology that helps Minkoff connect the dots between channels.

By integrating its channels—digital and in-store—Rebecca Minkoff saw a 6X to 7X increase in its ready-to-wear sales in less than half a year.


Deliver speed and convenience through mobile

European retailers Argos and Media-Saturn have both embraced mobile as a connector to the in-store experience. Argos, one of the U.K.'s best-known "high street" retailers with 750 stores and a successful catalog business, realized mobile was changing how its customers shopped. They expect things "faster and faster in a very convenient way," says Bertrand Bodson, the retailer's chief digital officer.

Argos now uses mobile to connect customers to its stores. So, for example, a working mom could search on her smartphone for a car seat and reserve that car seat directly through a Google Shopping ad from Argos. Then, on her way home, she could stop by one of Argos' many stores to pay for it and pick it up.

As a result of its digital-focused strategy, 46% of Argos' total sales came from online shoppers, and mobile commerce grew by 38% last year.

Customers of Media-Saturn, Europe's biggest consumer electronics retailer, often come in waving their phones with the products they want in mind, explains Martin Wild, chief digital officer for Media-Saturn. They're also asking about local availability and price. "Local is an important part of our strategy," Wild adds. "We brought our store inventory online and to mobile, and if a consumer decides to buy, we can fulfill his needs immediately."

Media-Saturn reshaped its marketing mix, transitioning from TV planning to screen planning. It forged a strategy to reach customers who were researching online but buying in-store, using local inventory ads. Today, two-thirds of its sales are digitally influenced, and overall sales have increased by 5% in the last six months. For a business that did €20 billion in net revenues last year, that's no small amount of growth.

Research backs up the emphasis placed on mobile by Argos and Media-Saturn. Even when a sale is made in-store, mobile is increasingly playing a role in the purchase journey. According to the HBR-AS report, mobile devices used before or during shopping trips influenced nearly $1 trillion—or 28%—of in-store sales in the U.S. last year.


Winning the intent-driven consumer moments

Companies that take steps toward becoming fully moments-ready are reaping tangible returns from both mobile investment and overall marketing investment. Brands like those mentioned above have figured out how to remove the friction for their customers in order to fulfill their needs anytime and anywhere. Here's how you can be there in the moments that matter this holiday season:


  • Take a cue from shoppers' behavior. They don't think about channels separately, so neither should you. Organize your teams internally to meet shoppers in their micro-moments, wherever they happen.
  • Integrate the best of online into the offline world by measuring every channel your customer touches. Connect the dots across channels and provide a fluid, engaging experience online and in-store.
  • Take advantage of the fact that people are often searching on mobile before they come into a store. Be there on mobile, and think of it as the new entrance to your store.

By the way, my daughter got her Megan Rapinoe jersey and has her eye on a Carli Lloyd jersey as a holiday gift. Yet another moment in the making.

Check out the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report, "Micro-Moments and the Shopper Journey," below.


1 Google/Ipsos, "Consumers in the Micro-Moment" study, March 2015, United States. (n=5,398, based on internet users)
2 Google/Ipsos, "Consumers in the Micro-Moment" study, Wave 3, March 2015, United States. (n=1,291, online smartphone users 18+)