With the rise of digital, the retail landscape is changing at an unprecedented pace, and customer expectations aren’t far behind. Consumers are now using an extraordinary amount of channels to research and purchase products. They also have more computer power in their smartphones than all of NASA had back in 1969 when it sent two astronauts to the moon.
The new mobile channel, leading to the great “mobile disruption,” has enabled retailers to bring the in-store experience to life. Customers can now take photos of shoes and do product matching. Staff can be equipped with tablets to find products online that aren’t in store or provide a deeper level of information to consumers. New technologies like mobile payments are also on the horizon, which could open up a whole new level of customer loyalty programs.
At eTail Europe 2013, we were lucky enough to bring 13 top retail multi-channel executives in the UK together to discuss the challenges they face in this area, as well as how they are trying to capitalize on the opportunity.
Challenges they discussed included:
· Convincing store staff of the benefit of online: A number of retailers mentioned that they are still struggling with convincing their store staff that the online channel is not “cannibalizing” the store’s sales. One retailer said they have quite a traditional store staff that doesn’t use online as much as rest of the market does. It requires a lot of effort to get their involvement, in order to be on par for what customers want.
· Humanising the digital experience: The group said that the biggest advantage in-store provides is a humanised experience. However, they also said that when the number of people a store has on the shop floor is not the same as the number of customers, humanisation can be challenging. This opens up a door for digital to help fill the void. However, using digital can make the experience too automated. Customers may end up seeing little difference between the in-store and at home experience on their tablet, giving them less incentive to come to the store.
Solutions mentioned include:
· Redesigning store formats: A number of retailers said they are re-inventing their store format in areas like size, location, ranges they carry, check out size/availability, etc., to more effectively manage in-store experiences in the digital era. One retailer said customers get embarrassed if they have to ask a member of staff multiple times to find shoe sizes for them. What they want is the ability to check stock levels themselves and then get the member of staff once they need them. This knowledge has allowed this particular retailer to focus on facilitating this process on the mobile site so that customers will stay in store and not go somewhere else.
· Getting in-store staff bought into digital: One of the solutions offered by the group to get in-store staff bought into digital was to attribute digital sales to stores. Sounds quite controversial at first. It was noted that certain stores are more open to this idea than others. For example, large flagship stores seem more accepting of the idea than smaller stores do. What one retailer did was attribute all sales for stage one, (i.e., click and collect), and stage two (i.e. online sales done while in-store), to that store. The internal engagement, this retailer said, has been enormous.
For more insight into these top executives insights, keep an eye out for the full Deloitte/WBR Digital report, which will be published in the coming months, or feel free to email me anytime for a draft copy.