Do the math. Store closures + bankruptcy filings + reports of declining footfall = life support for bricks-and-mortar and omnichannel retailers. Flounderers defy categorization by location, product mix, price point, target market, etc. Yet they all share a common dilemma: how to create an omnichannel ecosystem that offers customers a seamless experience, convenience, service, fulfillment, and engagement worthy of loyalty.
The store as experience
This FOMO (fear of missing out) strategy punches up the store experience to make shoppers feel they will miss out by not visiting the store. In GPShopper's recent study, 86% of 1,200 U.S. adults said they like "experience stores," where they can test products in stores but buy on mobile or online, similar to the Samsung store concept.
Yet most retailers are stuck in their pre-Internet rut, thinking that new marble floors and fancier displays will draw shoppers. Their stores are still places to ‘get things’, rather than be inspired or have fun.
However, a few specialty retailers are getting it right: Lululemon, which conducts weekend in-store yoga classes, and Nike, which leverages digital interactions to bring online shoppers into stores via training sessions, running clubs and more.
Follow the findings
In 2016 IBM surveyed 1,500 U.S. consumers aged 13 to 60+ to find out about consumers’ top criteria for choosing where to shop. Some of the highlights are particularly noteworthy with respect to generating store traffic:
- 83% chose not to complete an online purchase because of shipping costs.
What it means for stores: Give shoppers an option for free in-store pickup, which drives store traffic. Some retailers even include an incentive/reward for this option.
- 80% consider it important to be able to view in-store product availability.
What it means for stores: In-store product availability drives shoppers to the store.
- 72% say that “speed of delivery” is important when choosing to buy from one retailer over another.
What it means for stores: Offer bullet-proof buy online/pick up in store (click and collect) to satisfy shoppers immediately in their preferred store and enable an upsell and engagement opportunity.
Follow changing needs of target customers
Times change, and customers change. While customer service once set Macy’s apart, its customers indicated they no longer wanted or needed a high level of personal attention. In a self-service test, Macy’s shoe departments experienced double-digit sales growth, heralding a nationwide expansion.
Could this approach be a blueprint for other departments across Macy’s? It’s a move that disrupts the traditional role of the department store as a full-service retailer and leverages technology that consumers have come to expect. It could also help reduce operations costs.
Follow the moneyed millennial
Known for heavy online and mobile shopping, Millennials also appreciate personal interactions. To convert them to faithful store customers, retailers must deliver on the experience strategy with speed, personalization and efficiency. Their preference for value continues to fuel the success of H&M, Zara, TJ Maxx and others.
The need for speed. Reduced wait times are critical for keeping this group from walking out. While they like interacting with retail store staff, they want fast service. Self-service kiosks and employees armed with tablets for in-aisle checkout and dressing room assistance conserve time.
Me, me, me. Personalization trumps privacy for Millennials, and they are willing to divulge information to receive benefits. Being greeted by name and one-click credit card checkout for repeat purchases are perfect examples. They appreciate applications that personalize the in-store experience, provide click and collect, offer purchasing credit such as loyalty programs, and offer access to special in-store workshops and experiences.
Instant gratification. Millennials want to know immediately about product availability and fulfillment. They might place an order while standing in front of the store, requiring a speedy click and collect process. If the e-commerce site says it’s available in the store, it better be. A wasted trip to the store could sever a customer relationship.
Giving customers a real-time glimpse of store-by-store inventory lets them see which store has a desired item in stock and determine if they want to pick up the item or have it shipped to their home.
Integrate, communicate and appreciate
Half of all mobile product sales already combine in-store purchases with online research, pointing to the need for channel integration for a seamless experience that ensures consistent brand messaging and marketing across all channels and is in sync with employee performance. Integrating digital and traditional roles and functions within departments is a strategy for eliminating fragmented channel-centric approaches.
Channel integration supports the store as a control center for capturing and sharing all customer, product, and sales data across the retail enterprise for better insight into customer behaviors. Point-of-sale, mobile, and location-based technologies in and around a store provide a retailer valuable context around a customer’s purchase (where, when, brand affinity, etc.). This knowledge is essential for personalizing offerings, as well as enhancing localized buying, merchandising, and stocking and replenishment decisions.
At the same time, employees need to understand anticipated results from integrating traditional and digital channels and data to ensure they make every touch point an efficient, effective customer engagement. Therefore, frequent internal communications that promote awareness and education—and recognize and reward excellent performance and results—will drive success.
Gamification of the shopping experience
Retailers are starting to drive traffic by creating a unique in-store shopping experience that blends games and prizes. Interweaving apps exclusively for in-store use that make the shopper’s experience fun and rewarding can motivate return visits. Loyalty rewards, bonus points, etc. offer added incentives. Retailers who think of the store as a host who always goes out of their way to make sure that guests enjoy themselves will earn a reputation that lures new and returning traffic.
Lexy Johnson, One View Senior Vice President, Global Marketing & Engagement, helps global retailers define and implement a successful omnichannel strategy that drives a unified customer experience.
OneView Commerce enables retailers to drive digital transformation by providing disruptive technologies that enable the exchange of vital information via digital point of sale, real-time inventory, and enterprise promotions. The resulting empowered omnichannel enterprise delivers a unified customer experience to increase sales, improve operations, and strengthen brand loyalty.