Recently, Tom McGee, the CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers declared: “…physical retailers have stepped up their omnichannel game to the point where many now come much closer to offering the type of seamless physical and digital integration shoppers expect. It’s not about brick versus clicks anymore. It is about convergence and retailers are just beginning to touch the possibilities in that regard.”
Retailers have come to realize that in this Age of the Customer, consumers are in control and have re-thought their shopping approach. They make purchases when, where and how they prefer: 31 percent say that right product, right place at the right time is most important in their shopping experience; 51 percent say they will remain more loyal if this is done right.
Consumers don’t want to be limited in where they can shop, and in many cases this has driven them back to the store! Sometimes they want to touch and feel the goods prior to making a purchase. Granted, they may buy online anyway in the store, but the opportunity to catch their attention with other products strongly exists.
One of the strong trends we are seeing is the emergence of “Click and Collect,” the practice of buying online and picking up the purchase in the store. Click and Collect purchases have doubled in the last year from four percent to eight percent of shoppers choosing this option. Interestingly, we are also seeing stores providing a digital experience to attract shoppers back inside as well as Web-rooming, or creating a virtual store within their ecommerce channel.
Some retailers are taking one-to-one marketing “down to the aisle” with the use of geo-fencing and RFID tagging which helps them pinpoint the consumer while instore to deliver an appropriate category or product level coupon to their smart phone or tablet.
What’s driving these trends? Net/Net: Consumer expectations for a seamless and personalized experience continues to grow. In fact, the customer doesn’t think of the website or stores as different channels. To her, it’s simply shopping. She thinks about her experience as with the brand as a whole.
The smart retailer understands that continuously improving the customer brand experience will become a strong differentiation. This means ensuring that the consumer expectations are met at all times and on all devices in a seamless way – zero friction whether buying online to collect in-store, purchasing in-store and opting for delivery, or carrying their purchase home. Fifty percent of consumers still prefer to visit a store and take items home with them.
The new goal is to give shoppers every reason to buy an item once they have found what they want – whether in-store, or online; this will lead to greater loyalty, sales growth and profitability, and convergence is the key. And this has strong implications for marketers who hold the key to crafting offers that resonate with the consumer.
What are the practical implications and opportunities for retailers?
In addition to the impact on operations, merchandising and customer service required to provide a seamless shopping experience, cohesive omnichannel marketing strategies need to be aligned to provide hyper-relevant offers and engagements at the right time, in the customers’ cadence across channels.
There’s an abundance of new data and data sources which have to be brought under control and unified into a single complete view of the customer – from transaction history to online behaviors to social presence collected from POS systems, kiosks, social and mobile channels, beacons, RFID tags, video logs, third-party apps, weblogs, IoT, blogs, loyalty and preferences.
Omnichannel communication capabilities are essential to meet and engage in multiple channels; email or print blasts are no longer sufficient. Coordinated, integrated communications are essential. Retailers must employ targeted, one to one messages to engage with consumers anywhere and at any time of their choosing.
Ultimately, retail convergence is an opportunity to leverage the demands of the Age of the Customer into the Age of the Customer Experience.
Modern retailers need an omnichannel marketing platform designed with them in mind. It’s important that you can easily plan, create and execute precise, one-to-one interactions with your customer across all marketing channels, helping to create and maintain the best customer experience. With the right technology in place, you’re poised to stay competitive in this modern marketing landscape.