Many people talk about the “good old days” of retail. When you walked into a store and the shopkeeper not only knew your name and your personal story, but also your shopping preferences. You were instantly offered options when it came to colour, size and fit, the likes of which most Gen Y and Millennial’s will never have experienced today.
While this old-school deep personal interaction and customer experience is considered golden, it’s also something that many bricks and mortar retailers today think they can never replicate.
My opinion, however, is that there is no better time to get personal with your customers. The reason? Today the shopper controls the retailer; they decide when they purchase, where they purchase and what they want. With 90% of purchases made in store, there is a huge opportunity for retailers globally to take back some of the power and change the face of the shopping experience for consumers.
To explain why, we need to take a look at the background of online retail. In the late 1990’s when ecommerce came to fruition, the promise of being able to sit in your underwear and shop online, all while sitting at home in front of your set up of a 17″ 50 pound screen and large desktop PC was amazing. The ability to order anything you wanted saw people flocking to buying online in droves, however the reality of the experience was nowhere near as easy as the promise.
Fast forward to today where we are living in an online world, those large cumbersome PC’s have been replaced with devices that fit in the palm of the shopper’s hand (and are much more powerful). The challenge? Hardly any stores are connected in a fully integrated way, and the retailer’s strategies are still aimed at people sitting at home, browsing for bargains whilst in their underwear.
A large volume of retailers have developed and implemented strategies solely based on a fixed web approach with a responsive mobile experience and search, with social media feeding it. Time and time again, we are seeing retailers that are struggling with the value of apps, knowing that consumers won’t readily download a large number of retail based apps on their device, that in reality is just an extension of their website and offers nothing new to the user. As it stands, ecommerce only accounts for a total of 10% of all retail sales and has a five year global growth rate of just 2.9%.
Add to this, the fact that shopping cart abandonment rates are sitting at 75%-85% and there is a global total of $4.5 trillion of seemingly unwanted goods that are never purchased ($50B in Australia alone).
As it is, 90% of people say they are likely to browse online and make a purchase in store, showing the need for retail storefronts. While the shopper’s journey hasn’t changed that much from the original ‘Discover, Desire, Consider & Purchase’ pathway, that journey now takes place starting in the online world and moving to offline (O2O) AKA people are now browsing online and buying in store.
It makes sense that retailers will harness this behavior and in store shopping habits. Just like the shopkeepers that knew what you came into the store for, there is the opportunity for retailers to give the same experience to their consumers. The technology platform that will enable this and allow an unprecedented shopper experience for customers is mobile.
By the time most people enter the store, as a result of online browsing habits, they will know more about the product than ever before. They have discovered, desired and considered the purchase, then it’s the role of the shop assistant and retailer to offer the “last mile” experience. The consumer will have advance knowledge of price points, reviews and in some cases stock availability, so it is becoming increasingly challenging for the shop assistant to add value.
It’s indisputable that as a result of this browsing behavior, an ecommerce site is vital for any retailer and allows maximum opportunity for consumers to browse and understand a product. However, for stimulating desire, once the shopper leaves the site the retailer has no idea where they went.
Did they visit a store? Did they make a purchase? Where?
The main reason online shopping carts are abandoned at such a high rate is there is no way of saving items for later consideration. As a shopper you might have items in online shopping carts from many retailers and inevitably many browser tabs open on your Smartphone, however the experience is hopeless and incohesive.
The challenge for retailers is step up the plate and take control back from the shopper. If over 90% of retail sales are happening in stores, there is an untapped opportunity for retailers to look at innovation. It’s about using technology to close the sales at the point when it’s both contextual and relevant, while also building real relationships with shoppers and helping influence the sale and experience.
This will, in time allow retailers to regain control from the shopper and shift the future to ensure they once again hold the balance of power and can increase loyalty and measure data in the process.