The way customers shop and buy items has changed significantly in recent years. In the 2017 Total Retail report PwC stated we’re living in a ‘golden age of choice’ where consumers are in the position of power. Shoppers now expect to seamlessly switch between their online and offline worlds, and any retailer slow to react is facing stark consequences.
There’s no doubt it’s a challenging time to work and succeed in retail. However, retailers must adapt and invest in the right areas. Statistics show that consumers now want to use technology to help them engage with the store at every step of the shopping journey and 82% of smartphone users consult their phones on purchases they are about to make in-store. Most of all it’s a fantastic opportunity for digital teams to make even a small budget work hard, both online and in-store with a good multichannel strategy.
Retailers have traditionally had difficulty in measuring the return on digital investments in-store. However, as our online and offline worlds merge you can use web analytics to your advantage. For example, you might have noticed traffic increasing for a particular product online and see sales in-store increase simultaneously. Investing online would enable you to use this intel to buy and promote the right products at the right time, which can have a significant impact on in-store revenue. The key is making sure the experiences are linked, and users get what they expect from either experience, such as touching and feeling items in-store.
The research online, purchase offline (ROPO) phenomena is growing and retailers are racing to be at the forefront of the movement. A report in 2018revealed 45% of bricks-and-mortar buyers read reviews online before purchasing. There was good news for kitchen, bedroom and bathroom retailers investing online, though, as appliances came top as the most researched online before being bought offline.
As well as research online there are also opportunities for interactive social engagement (e.g. Facebook adverts with coupons to be redeemed in-store), live streaming or virtual reality.
Then there are brands like Lululemon and Rapha who’ve gone a stage further and foster communities online. These communities interact on and offline sharing stories and meeting in-store for events like free yoga. This can help strengthen a brand identity and raise awareness, while some retailers also offer free product maintenance in-store to drive sales. To successfully merge these experiences it’s important to make locating your local shop as easy as possible, by highlighting it at the bottom of personalised marketing emails, for example.
Another 21st Century phenomena is the ability to click and collect. Customers like that it reduces friction in their shopping experience, whether that’s being at home when a parcel arrives or ensuring your product is in stock. Interestingly research has shown that “about a third of shoppers would prefer to have an item delivered to a location other than their home… and many of those are choosing to pick up their orders in stores.” What’s more, about 50% of respondents opted for in-store pickup, and of those consumers, 45% bought something else during their trip to the store.
It’s clear that as the retail world is invaded by technology driven competition and customers expect a seamless omnichannel experience, strategically investing online to increase sales but also drive traffic in-store is a good move. The winners though will invest in the right online channels and ensure their limited budget goes a long way.