We’ve come a long way since the first online sales, whether via terminal-based services in the 1980s or browser-based ecommerce transactions in the 1990s. But some would say retail has not come far enough. Considering online growth, a recent study found almost 90% of UK shoppers use Amazon and 40% have access to its Prime subscription service. Meanwhile, the rate of store closures remain rates high and footfall dwindles.
Even so, headlines warning of a retail or store ‘apocalypse’ have led retailers to become distracted, chasing less profitable sales online. They have shifted focus away from stores as a key part of any retail formula. That’s not to say that e-commerce isn’t also now an essential part of this mix. Retailers have to follow the customer and offer a seamless, integrated and digitally-enabled experience wherever they are. But too often this experience doesn’t reach physical sales spaces. While Google has tracked a 500% increase in ‘near me’ searches containing a variant of ‘to buy,’ we still rely on basic signage to find what we want in store. When our lives are digitally connected, it pays for retail, leisure and hospitality operators and brands to use this development to enhance not just the way we pay, but also the ways in which we shop.
Establishing more meaningful connections and engagement with customers, irrespective of sales or marketing channel will drive success. But the industry capability to harness such digital enablement lags the opportunity.
Using these connections to identify the best customers can help any customer-facing businesses gain insight on their preferences to infer how best to give them more of what they want. But also, how to do so profitably.
To do this, retailers must learn from their online competitors, whose business model affords them unprecedented levels of insight on their customers’ shopping journeys. The digitally enabled and data-driven.
Retailers have to follow the customer and offer a seamless, integrated and digitally-enabled experience wherever they are. But too often this experience doesn’t reach physical sales spaces. Click To Tweet
The likes of Amazon use customers to refine their customer offer and business proposition. So should all retailers too. As my Amazon co-author Natalie has said, too many retailers are ‘overstored and underperforming’.
The good news is stores aren’t going anywhere. Some 90% of sales are still completed in-store. But a data-driven view across customer shopping journeys can help retailers ensure those that survive are fit for purpose.
This means extending digital capabilities into stores via a mobile ‘makeover’ and augmenting them with a digital layer that is capable of providing relevant, contextual information, inspiration and convenience. Digital augmentation enhances customer experience by marrying it with the power of location and immediacy as a proxy for relevance, and the store’s ability to offer try-before-you-buy sensory selection and interaction.
The ability to send customers a ‘buy now’ offer dependant on who and where they are, as well as what they bought, stock levels and even the time of day – even for home delivery – requires considerable orchestration.
Those that achieve this, using more digitally enabled and data-driven customer engagement and insight – both in-store and online – are the ones that will win irrespective of sales or marketing channel in future.
Originally published Jun 10, 2019, updated Jan 16, 2023