Five Ways Retailers Can Succeed in the New World of Shopping

Customer Experience

Shop­ping expe­ri­ences con­tin­ue to evolve, some­times very rapid­ly.

In the wake of repeat­ed retail store clos­ings and indus­try-chang­ing acqui­si­tions, such as Ama­zon buy­ing Whole Foods, retail­ers must meet the chal­lenge of the new envi­ron­ment by explor­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to deliv­er out­stand­ing prod­uct research and buy­ing expe­ri­ences. While some may fail to adapt, retail brands that per­sist will need to do a bet­ter job in five key areas.

Con­nect­ing phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences

Retail­ers must recog­nise that the cus­tomer jour­ney is no longer lin­ear, but has become an omnichan­nel, flu­id expe­ri­ence. There­fore, brands should cre­ate seam­less expe­ri­ences that con­nect touch­points between desk­top, mobile, and in-store engage­ments.

How can you accom­plish this? By tak­ing a cus­tomer-cen­tric view of the entire jour­ney. As you strate­gi­cal­ly build an omnichan­nel approach, ask your team ques­tions such as:

  • How do our con­sumers research their buy­ing deci­sions? Which chan­nels are involved?
  • Where do they make most of their purchases—online or at the store?
  • How do we inte­grate dig­i­tal chan­nels with point-of-sale, inven­to­ry man­age­ment, and cus­tomer sup­port sys­tems so data is shared?
  • How do we cre­ate a jour­ney that can be picked up any­where through a per­sis­tent cus­tomer pro­file con­nect­ed to pre­vi­ous engage­ments?

It’s impor­tant to view your web and mobile prop­er­ties as a means to inform and inspire store shop­ping. As some retail brands face chal­leng­ing times rel­a­tive to their brick-and-mor­tar pres­ence, they must focus on ways to improve foot traf­fic. They can do that with a healthy dose of cus­tomer data. Data must inform the deci­sions brands make, so inte­grat­ing online and offline data in a way that dri­ves store vis­its is cru­cial.

Address­ing the direct-to-con­sumer dis­rup­tion

A trend is devel­op­ing. Inno­v­a­tive brands are fol­low­ing the lead of Apple and Tes­la by tak­ing their prod­ucts direct­ly to con­sumers, there­fore opti­mis­ing the num­ber of play­ers involved in their deliv­ery chan­nel. Due in part to tighter mar­gins and eas­i­er cus­tomer access through mobile and desk­top, a direct-to-con­sumer (DTC) mod­el can be appeal­ing for cer­tain brands.

How do retail­ers adjust to this trend? First, they must improve data shar­ing with their sup­pli­ers. Brands want to know more about their cus­tomers, which is why some have cho­sen to deploy a DTC mod­el. Shar­ing cus­tomer intel­li­gence with sup­ply chain part­ners can help improve prod­uct devel­op­ment and help pre­vent prof­it mar­gins from shrink­ing fur­ther.

Next, retail­ers must do a bet­ter job of con­nect­ing the con­sumer expe­ri­ence with brands to the expe­ri­ence offered in store. Appar­el retail­ers that sell mer­chan­dise to out­door enthu­si­asts, for exam­ple, should close­ly align both their online and in-store mes­sag­ing and con­tent with the excite­ment and enjoy­ment of out­door activ­i­ties.

Mas­ter­ing the art and sci­ence of attri­bu­tion

A sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge for retail mar­keters is under­stand­ing how their efforts con­tribute to buy­ing deci­sions. Which chan­nels influ­ence pur­chas­es? What mes­sag­ing res­onates the strongest? How much impact does con­tent per­son­al­i­sa­tion pro­vide? Mar­ket­ing attri­bu­tion can answer these ques­tions to a degree.

Retail­ers must find an effec­tive way to assign cred­it to mar­ket­ing activ­i­ties that leads to actions such as pur­chas­es. Attri­bu­tion is a tricky proposition—71 per­cent of respon­dents in a Jan­u­ary 2017 study indi­cat­ed that attribut­ing social and con­tent to rev­enue is a top chal­lenge in prov­ing return on invest­ment.

So, how do retail­ers suc­ceed at attri­bu­tion? There is no easy answer to this ques­tion, in terms of process. Retail mar­keters can design either a unique mod­el based on cus­tomer data or fol­low an estab­lished mod­el. What is impor­tant, though, is how to apply the attri­bu­tion mod­el to gen­er­ate stronger syn­er­gy between the brands they car­ry and the shop­ping expe­ri­ences they offer—both online and in store.

Adapt to a voice-acti­vat­ed shop­ping mod­el

Voice-enabled devices have the poten­tial to sig­nif­i­cant­ly dis­rupt the retail shop­ping expe­ri­ence, though it will like­ly take some time. These expe­ri­ences can change the shop­ping dynam­ic from a web-based, visu­al process to a voice-based one. It’s not sur­pris­ing to see the devel­op­ing bat­tle between Google’s Home, and Amazon’s Echo, giv­en their abil­i­ty to sim­pli­fy prod­uct selec­tion and deliv­ery.

I don’t expect voice-acti­vat­ed shop­ping to become a stan­dard for all ver­ti­cals, but retail­ers, espe­cial­ly small­er retail­ers, will need to find a way to lever­age this tech­nol­o­gy and keep the domain from becom­ing monop­o­lised by larg­er brands.

Improv­ing the in-store expe­ri­ence

Late last year, one study found 44 per­cent of retail exec­u­tives in Ger­many, Japan, the UK, and the US claim­ing that improv­ing in-store expe­ri­ences was a strate­gic pri­or­i­ty for the year. As men­tioned pre­vi­ous­ly, seam­less­ly con­nect­ing the dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence with brick-and-mor­tar vis­its is crit­i­cal to a suc­cess­ful in-store expe­ri­ence.

As tech­nol­o­gy such as voice-acti­vat­ed devices and inter­ac­tive kiosks allow for greater shop­ping sophis­ti­ca­tion, retail­ers should also focus mar­ket­ing efforts around build­ing excite­ment about being at the store.

How can retail­ers improve in-store expe­ri­ences? For one, they should pro­vide store asso­ciates with tech­nol­o­gy, tools, and infor­ma­tion that can enable them to pro­vide val­ue to the brick-and-mor­tar shop­per. A recent report indi­cat­ed that “retail­ers are expand­ing the use of mobile tech­nol­o­gy by giv­ing asso­ciates mobile devices and apps with spe­cif­ic aims to use them for cus­tomer iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, cus­tomer engage­ment, asso­ciate train­ing and task man­age­ment, point of sale (POS) and pay­ments.” This will sure­ly improve the in-store expe­ri­ence.

As a rule, retail­ers will need to migrate to the “store of the future.” What does this store look like? First, it will like­ly have a small­er foot­print. The pres­sure to opti­mise space is lead­ing some retail­ers to reduce inven­to­ry for the sake of low­er over­head costs.

From there, the image of the store of the future varies. For instance, a remark­able 24-hour con­ve­nience store con­cept is being devel­oped in Chi­na. It has no staff and no reg­is­ters, is com­plete­ly mobile, and will self-dri­ve to a dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ter or deliv­er goods to cus­tomers.

The won­der­ful thing about the store of the future is two-fold: one, it will rely heav­i­ly on tech­nol­o­gy, which can help with tight prof­it mar­gins, and two, there will be lit­tle lim­i­ta­tion on the cre­ativ­i­ty used to devel­op con­cepts. 

In clos­ing, it will be impor­tant for retail brands to embrace change. We are in a peri­od of both great upheaval and great oppor­tu­ni­ty. Retail­ers should be open to lever­ag­ing tech­nol­o­gy, par­tic­u­lar­ly mar­ket­ing tech­nol­o­gy, to meet their cus­tomers’ expec­ta­tions. As this retail dis­rup­tion con­tin­ues, the brands that sur­vive will find ways to improve shop­ping expe­ri­ences, expand or main­tain mar­gins, and pro­vide con­sumers with the most sat­is­fy­ing post-pur­chase and loy­al­ty-build­ing inter­ac­tions.

Customer Experience
Vijayanta Gupta

Posted on 06-29-2017

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