What is the path your customer takes for purchasing products?
Retailers across the world are trying to understand the best path to build for their customers, many of whom want to shop while they are at home catching the day’s headlines, during the morning commute at the subway station, at the workplace during lunch time or between their favorite television shows in the evening. Even from the Super Bowl game or on the weekend from the middle of a freeway gridlock. If the customer is in your store, your products move from the shelf to the shopping cart, over the checkout counter and into the customer’s home. But retail isn’t that simple any more. Clearly, the “old” over-the-counter route alone can’t be relied upon.
Retailers are expanding their channels, widening their reach to connect with customers online and over mobile devices, using a combination of smart technology platforms and slick marketing. In the process, new channels are creating and capturing new customers. While retail is notorious for quick changes in customer behavior, here we look at three key trends that formulate a winning strategy:
Focus on Online: The shop.org/ Forrester Research study on the state of Retailing Online 2013[i] said that web retailers saw a growth of 28% in 2012 over 2011. This means retailers need to first examine their basics: Is the customer-facing site optimized? Is the product information rich and complete? Are there alternative payment channels? Is the check-out optimized? Do they use tools such as QR codes to enhance the shopping experience? Is the site optimized for touch and gesture for those who access it on mobile devices?
Focus on Social: Customers are increasingly using channels such as social networks to research products before they shop. Do you have a social media strategy that lets your customers build your brand through positive reviews and recommendations? Do you engage in conversations with your customers and ensure higher levels of loyalty? Traditional retail advertising and promotion models need to factor in a big chunk of social media into their strategy – because that is where their customers are. On the back end, leveraging social also means building “social media listening skills”. Analyzing what your customers are saying and what those of your competition are saying can help respond to changing customer behavior and stay ahead of competition.
Focus on Mobile: The State of Retailing Online 2013 study shows that on an average, retailers experienced a 129% lift in year-over-year sales from smartphones and a 178% lift from tablets. M-shopping is a relatively new phenomenon which could be one of the reasons for its phenomenal growth. Mobile technology continues to evolve relentlessly. Retailers have many options available at their disposal. However, this is a double-edged sword. The options make it difficult to choose what is right. Retailers must therefore ensure that they have an experienced technology partner to lead them through these options.
The primary challenge for retailers clearly is in creating a single customer view across channels (off line, online, mobile, kiosk) for a seamless shopping experience. Without this, building alternate paths to your customer may remain a half-baked exercise.