Reports on retail's death have been overly exaggerated. Online shopping is on the rise. For the current quarter, US e-Commerce sales as a percent of retail sales is at a level of 7%. While up from 6.60% last quarter, the role of the store is more important today than before as it is the nerve center of the customer engagement and obviously where nearly approximately 93% of US retail sales happen. Retailers still need to focus on their omni-channel approach and make the investments in tools and technologies that engage shoppers across all channels.
For example, consider the following real life scenarios:
- A first time home owner wants to buy a new TV for his house. He looks on the web and relies on user reviews to make a decision. He compares price on the web, identifies the make and model he wants and discovers that it is being discounted at a local store. He drives to the store, makes the purchase, goes home and hangs the TV in his new home.
- A working mom is holiday shopping. She visits a large toy retailer’s website, purchases toys for her children and decides to use the layaway at her local store, which is less than five miles away. She likes the convenience of having the retailer keep the gifts away from the eyes of her children.
- A student in New York City goes to multinational technology company’s website to buy a tablet. Unfortunately, it is damaged during shipment, so she returns it to the physical store.
- While browsing on a fashion and apparel website, a customer finds a pair of shoes she likes but is unsure of the fit. So she visits a local store and completes her purchase in the store. A few days later, she decides that she wants the same pair of shoes but in a different color. She visits the website again to make the purchase and enrolls in its annual membership for a discount off of her next purchase.
The omnipresent consumer
Today’s global consumers and shoppers want to move across channels with ease, wants real time access to product information, and immediate access to inventory and pricing. Omni-channel shopping has evolved in unpredictable and organic ways as consumers increasingly create their own paths to purchase.
To win, global retailers need to make omni-channel profitable and how should they do it?
Invest in digital technologies and tools with a clear understanding of how they can enhance the in-store experience.
Digital technologies are enabling personalized customer service. Supermarkets now compete with online subscription formats, which allow customers to easily stock up on recurring purchases. However, retailers can apply the same principals to its physical formats in a way that encourages consumers to "top off" their recurring needs. For example, retailers can partner with consumer packaged brands to send tailored, personalized offers to customers on their smartphones based on their physical location within the store.
Offer a convenient shopping experience that responds to the shoppers’ path to purchase
Creating a convenient shopping experience is no longer about selling anything and everything from a single store or website. It is profitably targeted at providing the right experience to shoppers who are either shopping for both value and/ or quality. That’s why large department stores in the U.S., and a top superstore in the U.K., among others, are offering services that combine their in-store and digital capabilities. For instance, many retailers are turning its stores into distribution centers.
Build Agile Supply Chains
In addition to investing in fun and glamorous digital capabilities retailers must also invest in critical agile supply chains.
Enable sales associates to sell and engage customers
Store associates with point-of-sale devices and tablets improves the in-store shopping experience. With hand-held devices store associates engage customers more effectively, are able to offer merchandise ideas and product information, and speed transactions.
The evidence from the stories above is simple: Consumers have multiple touch points with brands and use all channels to make decisions on their purchases. Consumers don’t care about channels and neither should retailers.