Vodafone UK Head of Sales - Consumer Goods - Retail, Aviation, FMCG
3 minute read
Technology has already transformed the way customers engage with products and brands. Now, it can help transform physical stores and bring people back in their droves.
At the height of the pandemic, the former CEO of M&S, Steve Rowe, said: “Customers may never shop the same way again”.1
But has that proven to be true? Customers have returned to shopping in stores, but their expectations have changed. Customers demand more choice, more guidance and more convenience. If they don’t find it, they’ll go elsewhere or back to their devices. If the high street is to fight back and truly engage its customers, brands must understand how they have changed and what they need to do to update the shopping experience to reflect new consumer expectations. In-store shopping must be reinvented for the digital age.
The answer is to bridge the gap between online shopping and the in-store experience. Retail brands must strengthen their omnichannel capability to exploit and combine the strengths of both online and in-store shopping experiences.
How has the customer changed? Here are four trends that have been accelerated by the pandemic:
Shoppers have become conditioned to online shopping with its breadth of choice, simplicity of navigation and expert guidance. And they demand the same experience in physical stores. Over a quarter (26%) of shoppers say that engaging digital content influences their purchasing decisions and 22% say they shop longer as a result – therefore, in-store experiences need to be compelling.2
People expect retailers to know who they are, their shopping history and what their preferences are. And they want to be guided towards products and brands that suit their needs. The majority (87%) of industry professionals say that customers expect at least some personalised content.3
Consumers are happy using more than one channel to buy. Many do their research online and then go in-store to purchase. ‘Click and collect’ shopping is now commonplace. Click and collect will account for almost 11% of UK online retail sales by 2025. And the global BOPIS market (buy online pick up in store) is expected to reach $703.18 billion by 2027.4
What does this mean for physical stores? Simply that retail brands need to look at their operations and create digitalised, personalised experiences, using technology and data to enhance the environment. It’s revealing that 90% of customers say they’ll return to a store if they have a positive in-store experience and 61% say they’re likely to spend more.5 Creating that positive environment should be the number one priority for every retail brand.
Customers are comfortable shopping across national borders. If the right shoes happen to be three thousand miles away, they suddenly become an option that was once unavailable. Clothing, footwear, and apparel make up the most popular shopping product category to buy online from abroad, with over one-third of consumers purchasing these items across borders and over the internet.6
By embracing digital transformation, retail stores can create a retail experience that harnesses the power of data and offers the same level of high-quality service across all channels
Nick Mavrokordatos, Vodafone UK
It’s clear that the future will belong to those who can unify all their selling channels into one seamless retail experience that is both experiential and intuitive. That experience should take advantage of the strengths of all channels – the ease and range of online shopping and the opportunity to see, touch and try the product for size that only physical stores can provide instantly.
However, currently, 50% of brands say their biggest challenge is to unify their online and in-store operations and use data to enhance both.7 And the key to overcoming this is with connectivity.
By embracing digital transformation, retail stores can create a retail experience that harnesses the power of data and offers the same level of high-quality service across all channels with things like:
With the right connectivity, we can enter a new retail era of increased operational agility, better connected employees, and enhanced customer engagement.
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