The industry has finally turned a corner in terms of where brick and mortar retail stands today. The end of 2018 closed with media stories exalting pop-up shops in malls and stores designed for Instagram-able moments; online brands opened permanent locations to fanfare and it seemed that suddenly, there was something to having a physical presence after all. The common theme was this: while 85% of all retail sales still happen in the store, the purchase decision does not necessarily always happen there. The store is still the place that closes the deal, but it’s a deal that is primed at home, supplemented by mobile and digital, and finally achieved through experiential moments on location where smart technology integration helps retailers build their brand, deliver differentiated service and deepen engagement
Today, it is as much about the shopping experience as it is about the actual purchase, and retailers are recognizing that they must be present throughout the entire customer journey. It’s not physical or digital, online or offline, but both – and everywhere in between.
This is the new retail norm, and for retailers who don’t want to be left behind in 2019, there are three main components to building a model that works.
Ours is an age of consumer hyper-adoption and hyper-abandonment, and the answer to that is for retailers to become hyper-relevant and hyper-personal. That means creating a surround-sound effect of content, across every platform the consumer is on, in exactly the format they are looking for, whether it be promotional offerings, product guidance, advertising or simply reinforced brand messaging.
Retailers should be taking advantage of new technologies to amplify their presence and increase interactions with consumers. For example, utilizing geofencing capabilities to create virtual zones that offer a passing shopper personalized offers. Or audio triggers taking cues from content on TV, radio, or live programs and events to send relevant recommendations, in the moment when it is meaningful to the consumer. To achieve hyper-relevance, retailers must leverage channels where today’s consumer spends most of their time (i.e. search channels like Google or social media channels like Instagram) and push forward personalized and localized content.
There are now a host of innovative and creative software solutions that allow retailers to communicate with their shopper in ways that feel native to each medium and natural for the consumer, all of which support and reinforce shopper decisions and keep them engaged during any and all points in their purchase journey.
Perhaps just as much as consumers have come to value the shopping experience and personalization, they also value control. Control over how they shop, how they make the decision, how they pay and how they utilize their time. The job of the retailer is to be able to offer that entire range of options – whether fully self-service, staff-assisted or mobile-driven – tailored to each shopper’s own preferences.
The checkout, for example, has been an important part of the process to undergo transformation in retail’s new norm. From a retailer’s point of view, the checkout process may be the most important stage in a shopper’s journey. From a shopper’s point of view, however, it should be the least. We’re seeing the one-click ordering functionality of the online world come into the offline store with the likes of Amazon Go and several Asian convenience store retailers enabling ‘frictionless’ checkout. Though this can be appealing to certain consumers and appropriate for some retailers, it isn’t the only way that consumers might want to control their experience. Consumers are desiring more choice in payment and fulfillment —optionsincluding utilizing digitally native alternative payments like PayPal, Venmo, AliPay or curbside or in-store pickup of digitally-initiated orders—all as part of their in-store experience.
To get there, retailers should focus on trialing with consumers the right combination of options they might desire, and then studying the feedback loop of data to gain insight on what works best for the store and for the broadest number of customers passing through it. Perhaps there may be more of one particular option or less of another—the key is to meet the customer wherever they are.
It’s not an overstatement to say that mobile phones have become the center of our lives, not in the least our shopping lives. Forrester Research Inc. estimates that by 2021, online sales completed on a smartphone will equal nearly one-quarter of all online sales transactions. This number is even higher when looking at mobile-influenced offline sales. In 2016, already one-third of all offline sales were mobile-influenced, and that number has only grown. Furthermore, 50% of US consumers use a mobile retail app even while in the store.
All this to say that an integrated mobile strategy is absolutely necessary to achieving the earlier two components discussed, and is in itself paramount to a successful retail model moving forward. As an extension of the consumer, the mobile phone is at once a conduit to a retailer’s estate, a receiver for recommendations, promotions and rewards, a self-service device for shoppers, and perhaps most importantly, a data collection tool for retailers. The powerful combination of mobile and data allows retailers to offer unprecedented personalization through a holistic profile of the customer based on their location in-store, their online browsing movements, and of course their purchase history.
As mobile technology (coupled with the data analytics capabilities retailers employ) continues to evolve, it has the potential to completely shift the shopper journey yet again. Even as retailers work to upgrade and improve their existing mobile systems, they should at the same time innovate to meet new changes head-on.
It is imperative for retailers to take a consumer-centric, journey-based approach to reshaping the purchasing experience. Immersing the consumer with the right content, empowering them to shop on their terms and leveraging the data from digitally-pervasive technologies like mobile to refine and personalize the journey is indeed the new norm in retail.
Arvin Jawa is vice president, retail strategy at Diebold Nixdorf, a retail technology and services firm.Favorite