Tomorrow's consumers will expect a seamless omni-channel experience
In gearing up for retailing in 2013, it is interesting to read the headlines and predictions. While much has been written on the future of specific retailers or the success of ecommerce over stores, relatively little has been written about consumers. At the end of the day, the results that count are the ability to attract consumers and engage them in ways they find valuable. Indeed, fundamental changes in consumer expectations and behaviors will be the drivers that change the face of retailing. Those retailers that both adapt and innovate based on changing the consumer experience will be in the best position to thrive.
One thing that is consistently predicted – Experience is the top priority
As IMS prepares for a new year of Retail University workshops, we systematically go through the trends so that we can update our materials. People attending Retail U classes often ask; "where do you get all of your information and facts?" Much of it comes from our experience working in retail. But, a surprising amount of information comes from quality online sources that are absolutely FREE!
The past year I was surprised by the number of free white papers available on retail topics and trends in retailing. One white paper that caught my eye was entitled: "What's Driving Tomorrow's Retail Experience?" Since this white paper was sponsored by Motorola, it is not surprisingly it emphasizes the impact of mobility. However, it is a credible resource for looking at the changes in retail and the solutions that will be required to deliver the kinds of experiences that tomorrow's consumers will be expecting.
74% of retailers believe developing consumer experience will be critical
One of the interesting highlights in the Motorola white paper is a survey of 250 retail executives. The focus of the survey was to understand the impact of omni-channel retail trends, and what must change in order to meet new consumer behaviors and changing expectations. One telling outcome of this survey includes the retailers perceptions of what they expect will change:
Creating a vision of what is possible for a seamless experience
The growth of smartphones is well documented, and continues throughout the world. This blog and many others have commented on the phenomena of "showrooming". When looking through the lens of showrooming, it often becomes a question of ecommerce versus store based retailing. It is NOT a question of either or. Consumers will continue to shop multiple channels. To thrive all retailers will essentially have to become omni-channel.
Smartphones and tablets are the tools that enable shoppers to change their habits. They are now empowered to shop anytime anywhere. For store based retailers, that is often seen as a threat to relationship they have with consumers in store. The keys to future success will be shifting retail paradigms to engage consumers before they ever enter a store … and then creating new ways to improve their experience while in store, as well as service after they leave. The Motorola white paper raises some fascinating What If questions in terms of creating a consumer centric omni-channel experience:
- What if retailers know who was in their stores at any given moment?
- What if they empowered shoppers to use their mobile device to communicate directly with the associates, the store, brands, and even products?
- What if a retailer could mesh the shoppers online web experience with the physical store experience?
- What if the sales associates could know as much about shoppers they're helping as the online retailer does … and engage them with the exact assistance they need when they need it?
- What if store shelf notified associates when stock was down to the last item(s) so that they could replenish before a customer experiences an out of stock?
- What if retailers could anticipate and identify which consumers might walk away unsatisfied … and make adjustments before they left the store?
- What if retailers could follow up with customers after the sale to check on how satisfied they are … and offer items or services that add additional value?
One thing is clear … consumers will drive their experiences in retail
The consumer has been empowered with an increase array of choice in this new omni-channel world. And, they are not going back! It is their behavior and values that are changing the face of retail. Yes, they will continue to shop in stores, but "rackem and stackem" product merchandising will no longer be enough. Consumers are expecting a different experience in store … something that adds value over product at a price.
The retail reality today is that consumers don't want a web versus store retail world. They are looking for a seamless shopping experience that suits their preferences that day. What this means for retailers is that consumers will increasingly expect:
- Being able to shop online and pick up in store
- Have wireless guess access within stores
- Purchase in store and have it shipped or delivered at home
- Have personalized store maps and information appear on their mobile device
- Be able to check if an item is in stock even before going to a store
- Never have to carry a loyalty card ever again
- Receive offers and promotions before entering and when they are in store
Store based retailers will not survive by paving the cow path
Where I live in the Midwest United States there is an old adage: Don't waste money paving the cow path. Cows are notorious for creating meandering routes that are never the most direct way to get somewhere. Yet, they follow the same path year after year creating a deep rut in the pasture. It is easier to just follow the rut than create a new one. Paving the cow path might make it less muddy, but you are still out wandering around.
Few consumers today have the patience or time to put up with a retailer's idiosyncrasies! They want a direct route to service … online and in store. To survive and thrive, store based retailers must know as much about their consumers as online retailers do … AND create a seamless experience both in and out of their stores.
Source: White Paper - What's Driving Tomorrow's Retail Experience?
- Graphic; Whitepaper
- Photos; Google Images