The New Retail Ecosystem: the More Touchpoints, the More Retail Sales

Thanks to technological advances and changing consumer behaviors and preferences, the shopper's journey is different than it has ever been before. To stay viable, retail businesses must adapt to these changes and adopt new strategies to meet today's shopper expectations. 

To illustrate this point, imagine a shopper who receives an advertisement via email or text message about a sale on the summer fashions. She may immediately visit the retailer's e-commerce site and order the maxidress she's had her eye on and arrange for home delivery. Or she may instead opt for a Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS) option to save on shipping charges.

The shopper could choose, however, to browse online via computer or smartphone and research her options before going to a physical store location to make the purchase — if she's the type who cannot wait, she might check online for in-store availability to find that that the dress of her dreams is immediately in stock. Once at the store, she may use a smartphone to research the product further or request additional information from a sales associate using mobile point of sale (mPOS). If she knows the dress is out of stock, she may order it at a kiosk or with assistance from a sales associate.

To accommodate the contemporary shopper, retailers must work toward the goal of true omnichannel, seamlessly connecting a network of touchpoints that help guide the shopper toward making a purchase — and increased store sales.

Building a strategy around the new shopper's journey
Retailers that aren't adapting to this new path to purchase are finding themselves at a disadvantage. Our recent shopper survey report found more than 90 percent of North American consumers now shop on more than one channel, and habits have changed to the point where more than one-third don't think about how they shop — they just choose the most convenient option. Moreover, The State of Retailing Online 2017 report from the National Retail Federation and Forrester Research states that digital touchpoints impact about 49 percent of all U.S. retail sales, including in-store sales.

Retailers that have only brick-and-mortar stores can benefit from building an online or mobile presence, which can help drive traffic to physical stores. E-commerce retailers can benefit from physical stores or showrooms where shoppers can see, touch, and try products before purchase. A full complement of touchpoints better positions retailers to use all channels to move customers through the sales funnel and earn sales.

Build agility into your business
Beyond the benefits of providing the shopping experiences your customers are looking for and driving sales, establishing multiple touchpoints can help you steer your business in the right direction as new changes occur. Doing business on multiple channels can make a retailer more agile — if consumer preferences change to favor one channel or another, you will already have the infrastructure in place to capitalize on the trend.

Since consumers began using computer and smartphones to shop, the industry has questioned what the roles of various channels would be. As this latest wave of industry disruption progresses, brick-and-mortar retail remains relevant, fulfilling shoppers' needs to see, touch, and try first-hand before buying. Online and mobile channels are not only resulting in e-commerce sales, but are also driving in-store sales by showcasing a retailer's merchandise, enabling product research and allowing a customer to order an item online for in-store pickup to make in-store shopping experiences more convenient.

All touchpoints have something to contribute on the contemporary shopper's journey, and retailers that build an agile retail ecosystem to support the way consumers want to shop can build customer loyalty and convert traffic on all channels into sales. 

Paula Da Silva is senior vice president of sales for Asia Pacific and the Americas for CitiXsys, a provider of software products for the retail sector. She has more than 10 years' experience in the retail industry associated with delivering innovative software solutions to mid- and large-sized retailers. Known for her strong track record of operational excellence and managing a global ecosystem of technology partners, Da Silva has been instrumental in building the iVend Retail omnichannel retail management solution for the retail industry.