The rate of change in lifestyles driven by digital innovation has forced consumer-centric industries such as retail to evolve. E-commerce and digital retail have added entirely new retail experiences to which customers have quickly become accustomed. These experiences are defined by 24/7 easy and fast access to sought-after items, personalized offers based on known preferences, and a frictionless buyer journey.
According to research from a 2017 Robin Report, despite the surge in the growth of e-commerce, more than 80% of retail sales still occur in-store and shoppers still appreciate in-store shopping for browsing and the ability to touch and try on items before purchasing. However, brick-and-mortar retailers need to adapt to the impact of e-commerce and digital retail in order to remain a meaningful and positive part of the consumer experience.
To stay relevant to consumers, retailers must combine the convenience and efficiency associated with online shopping with the benefits and experience of in-store shopping. By merging these attributes, brands can meet the needs of today's connected consumers and deliver a new, connected experience. Below are four ways to accomplish this synergy.
1. Empower store associates with mobile technology that enables instant visibility into the entire product assortment and inventory.
This is something that customers have become accustomed to online and the connected consumer expects the same in-store. Mobilizing your sales force with digital technology allows the consumer to get what they want, when they want it. Empowered associates that can provide faster and more valuable services to customers in-store serve to increase the value of that physical retail experience to customers.
2. Offer an immediate option to have items delivered directly to the shoppers' home.
This generates transactions that may be lost due to lack of stock in that location, customers' preference not to carry the items, etc. This especially appeals to the growing "I want it now" consumer and urban areas where local delivery of everything is becoming a normal part of life.
3. Provide timely product recommendations.
Based on what the shopper has in-hand or has asked to look up for in inventory, a digitally connected store can provide intelligent, personalized product recommendations to better engage, inform and support a customer. It also allows store associates to have more information on the product(s) and access to reviews — an online shopping aspect that would enhance the customer experience in-store. These kinds of capabilities allow the store to become an active part of the customer’s shopping experience.
4. Analytics and optimization.
Mobile technology can provide managers with data on overall customer servicing and individual associate performance (if each store associate is equipped with a mobile device). For example, data can be gathered on how many customers an associate services, how long it takes for an associate to accept a service request, as well as how long completing that request takes. This can help managers track and analyze the efficiency of the service and develop ways to maintain or improve associate staffing, timeliness and efficiency. Similar to e-commerce businesses, the ability to gather analytics data on store operations is the first step to creating opportunities to optimize the customer experience, enhance efficiencies, and drive more sales.
Speed and quality are becoming such significant factors in customer experiences; they can make or break consumer loyalty. Today's independent shopper expects a frictionless journey.