As digital innovations continue to transform the retail landscape, it’s time to find new ways to stay ahead of the competition.
Breaking out of the comfort zone
The biggest drivers of change in the retail industry come from advances in the Internet and mobile technology. However, innovative retailers are embracing the changes, and using digital technology to bolster their offline businesses.
It is no longer enough to simply offer great customer service in store. Today’s consumers are seeking continuous end-to-end service, from the online research phase through to physical purchase. It’s not a question of choosing between online or offline, but instead how to combine the two to offer a seamless shopping experience.
Think like a digital native
Millenials, or Gen Y, have been born into a digital world, and as such, have come to expect a certain level of service. For these ‘digital natives’, cross-channel connectivity is a must. Immediacy and convenience are paramount, and a discord between their online and offline experience is unacceptable.
Gen Y is constantly connected and highly social, and have the ability to influence their peers by spreading their opinions virally. Traditional advertising is no longer enough; instead retailers must focus on authenticity, transparency, and personalised communications. By combining the strengths of both online and offline interactions, retailers will be able to provide the sort of omnichannel shopping experience that digital natives expect.
Never has there been a more connected and digitally savvy generation than Gen Y. These digital natives expect a full integrated experience from stores and brands.
Create an omnichannel experience
An end-to-end redesign of your current business model may not be necessary, however, a shift in approach to an omnichannel strategy is worthwhile. Retailers need to raise the bar and ensure they are visible online by implementing technologies such as Store Discovery Optimisation. They should also consider services like‘click and collect’, fast checkouts for online orders, and in-store returns, which combine physical and digital to provide high levels of convenience and efficiency.
Some of the biggest retail players have already adopted highly successful omnichannel retail strategies. One such example is Apple, whose digital and physical components feed into each other at every level. Prospective Apple customers are able to research products online, book a free appointment with a customer-service representative, then come in-store, use the merchandise, or take a class. Apple store staff use mobile Point of Sale terminals, doing away with lengthy check-out queues, and online orders can be delivered or collected in store. When customers choose to ‘click and collect’, they are sent a mobile alert once they are near the store, providing them with the information they need to present to store staff upon arrival. Customers then continue to interact with the brand post-buy via music, entertainment and app purchases on an iTunes account.
These services provide an interactive experience between customer and product, and create an end-to-end journey to purchase. Apple’s prices are premium, but customer loyalty remains high because of the brand’s commitment to ease, innovation and service.
The most successful brands are finding ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors, but are by no means doing away with valuable in-store interactions. Omnichannel strategies must add clear value, such as an increase in your store’s online visibility. By implementing Store Discovery Optimisation, shoppers will be able to discover your products and brands quickly and easily both in the at-home research phase, and whilst on the go. This level of convenience and efficiency leads to increased foot traffic and higher customer retention. By utilising innovations in digital technology, retailers may well be able to transform their physical businesses.