The rise of digital coupled with a combination of other factors over the last decade has meant the high street has become a bleak place. During this time a number of iconic retailers have disappeared from our high streets, notably Woolworths, Blockbuster, JJB Sports, Phones 4 U – the list goes on. The ultimate reason as to why these companies failed and subsequently closed was that they operated with poor cash flow at a time of economic crisis and low consumer confidence. With leases to renew and rising labour costs, these retailers simply could not operate any longer. It was also during this time that we saw the quality and use of digital technologies increase significantly; resulting in consumers’ shopping habits changing, further compounding those financial issues.
Since then retailers and brands have identified how important it is to have a digital presence to be successful. However, retailers who simply look at digitising their bricks and mortar without thinking through how digital channels can be incorporated into a connected strategy are in danger of providing a poor customer experience, which will in effect do more damage than good. So how can they take advantage of latest technologies and consumers’ shopping habits to ensure they succeed where others in the past have failed?
Digital devices and experiences are now seen as essentials in all parts the customer journey, whether that be discovery, purchase or engagement. By 2020 it’s estimated 33 billion connective devices will be being used around the world. 33 BILLION. It’s now more important than ever for retailers to work out how to best incorporate these connected devices into an omni-channel offering, which will add to customer experience and gain retailers those much needed sales. One brand that is making good use of multiple devices to target and communicate with their customers along their purchase journey is Audi. The German carmaker allows potential customers to configure their own personalised car on their website. If users don’t have time to finish their build on their desktop, then they have the option to use Audi’s configurator app to finish it at a time that suits them. The app provides further benefits such as notifying the user on new features that can be added to their chosen car at the click of a button. Once happy, a customer can send their car’s configuration details to a local showroom and book an appointment. Upon arrival, a salesman will already fully understand the customer’s needs and can provide any additional detailed product information the customer is looking for. Once the customer is happy with their selected model, they can purchase the car there and then, or, if they need another day or two, they can order their car at the click of a button via the Audi app.
This is a standard multi-channelled strategy that could be adopted and tailored by any retailer who offers customisable products. But what about those retailers which don’t?
The good news for retailers is that e-commerce sales currently equate to around 15% of all sales in the UK, so the need for physical contact and that shopping experience is still very much apparent. For those who offer standardised products, the main opportunity they can take advantage of is to improve the in-store experience they provide. This opportunity will derive from studying and understanding their customers’ mobile activities, discovering what local information they’re interested in, when they want to receive it, and by what means.
Geofencing is a recent technology that allows retailers to target consumers in store by sending promotional offers to their smartphones. It can even track a person down to a specific aisle. With the emergence of wearable devices, it wouldn’t be surprising to see technologies like geofencing becoming more relevant in consumers’ purchase journeys. Seventy seven percent of all current smart wearable users agree that it would be useful to receive promotions on their smartwatch whilst in a physical store (84% of 18-34yr).
By putting greater focus on customer experience and appropriate use of technology, retailers will be able to provide added value to their consumers and in return will gain their trust. Obtaining this trust is key for retailers (or any business for that matter) if they are to utilise consumers’ usage data. Getting the balance of content and targeted devices right will be vital in any retailer’s omni-channel strategy. If retailers do execute this strategy correctly, they will have succeeded in creating an enjoyable customer experience and will be rewarded with customer loyalty and their place on the high street secured.01.04.16 Archive