Technology has caused major upheaval in the retail landscape — from smartphones to social media to e-commerce — and has permanently altered both the ways in which retailers entice customers and the way people shop.
Individual consumers can more readily adapt to new technologies; smart retailers, however, are taking a futuristic approach to adopt technology to entice the consumer, by researching which established and emerging tech will help to further their brand and presence both online and offline.
People still value shopping for the inherent experience of picking out the products they need and love and don’t view shopping as simply transacting with retailers. Omnichannel approaches consider how people use technology and offer repeatable, consistent service that anticipates what they’ll want.
According to Forrester’s The State Of Retailing Online 2019 report, stores are growing but so are eCommerce expenses. So the industry continues to face the reality of physical store dominance combined with the necessity of digital presence. In fact, it goes beyond mere digital presence but fully optimizing various digital technologies and channels. In this context, it is important to highlight that many enterprises confuse multi-channel presence as being omnichannel. The former is about gives an opportunity to interact with the brand across channels but the latter makes it personalized and seamless. A truly omnichannel experience is a catalyst for both online & offline purchase – such shoppers spend 15% more per purchase than those who shop just on one channel.
The influence of digital in offline purchases is also a reality. According to a 2018 article, multi-touchpoint consumers are very valuable, and, by 2021, digital touchpoints will influence 41% of U.S. and 38% of E.U. offline retail sales.
A report from Digital Consumer Study also found that over 50% of consumers say they have used their mobile device to price-match, research product information, or make a purchase within the last three months.
Research shows that updates and changes in mobile payment, customer service chatbots, and AI-driven digital assistants have catapulted mainstream adoption of technology in retail, creating the feel of more “bespoke” shopping experiences. With more intuitive technology comes the ability for retail leaders to manage a nuanced approach to their omnichannel strategy.
Taking a cue from this shift in consumers’ shopping habits, retailers are striving to build relatable marketing campaigns, friendly customer service, rewards for customer loyalty, and personalized shopping suggestions that can help create an amazing omnichannel experience.
Consumer offline buying behavior has been shifting as well, and while more than half of shoppers view online shopping as cold and impersonal, three-quarters of cross channel shoppers expect the same high-quality customer service online as they would expect to receive offline.
A report from Ernst & Young (E&Y) states:
“Compared to offline grocery shoppers, high-use early adopters of online grocery shopping reduced their spending at physical grocery stores (by 18% in the first month and 4.5% over two years). Interestingly, shoppers’ new spend on online grocery sites was higher than their reduction in offline grocery dollars, indicating that online grocery platforms might also cannibalize offline retailers with overlapping assortments such as restaurants and drugstores.”
Omnichannel incorporates multiple touch points through both technology and in-person interactions to curate a seamless user experience for consumers. Importantly, it differs from multi-channel, in that omnichannel accounts for every platform that users will access and integrates these multiple channels so effectively that a consumer’s interaction is consistent across websites, social media accounts, apps, and in store.
Retail leaders should keep in mind that the priority or focus in developing a seamless omnichannel experience for consumers is not strictly to drive sales and revenue, but rather to build and maintain customer loyalty in their brand(s), creating lifetime customers.
Buying cycles have changed due to digital experiences. Mobile apps now offer rewards programs for customer loyalty and coupons for discounts both online and offline, and more than half of people state that they’d be willing to get discount notifications and coupons via text message. Almost one-third of shoppers browse products at a nearby retail store and then shop online to find the lowest prices and confirm quality.
Online shopping is undeniably convenient, but it’s still an inherently impersonal channel; 75% of cross channel shoppers want the same quality of customer advice provided online as in-store (chatbots). Digital assistants offer customized product suggestions with the personal information consumers share online. Voice assistants can offer faster, more personalized customer service, after either an online or offline purchase is made.
Customers also use mobile technology while in the store, great news for companies with a mobile marketing strategy. This includes push marketing using location-based advertising for suggested products while walking through a store; displays that offer on-the-spot, discounts-based, past-purchase history; mirrors that provide a 3D view of customers wearing products; and real-time inventory checks on items in-store.
Social media content marketing has reshaped the way we shop, too (for example, Instagram’s recent update to allow users to immediately purchase products they see in their feed).
Large offline retailers such as Walmart have focused resources on building up their online shopping support; on the flip side, online retailer Amazon has been acquiring brick and mortar stores, such as Whole Foods or their pilot AmazonGo location in Seattle.
In conclusion, retailers can create a memorable experience through a seamless, nuanced approach. Staying abreast of changing technologies and updated methods of communication with consumers will enable you to adapt to changing consumer wants and needs. It’s “Digital Darwinism,” a world in which the most adaptable companies will survive.
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