Consumers are channel agnostic: the competition for retail sales

This article was going to be titled “Online versus Offline – the war on retail sales ” but it felt like the fat had been sufficiently chewed on this topic, and that sadly everyone had reached the forgone conclusion that offline was losing the battle. And who likes a story with a predictable ending?

The reality is that consumers don’t shop in terms of one set channel. The customer journey is a varied and often unpredictable route where they use all means available to them to find the products they like, at the right price, with the right level of customer service.

Where possible, consumers will opt for an omni-channel approach, forcing retailers to think beyond one channel over another, but rather to look at how they are able to effectively provide an integrated solution using all channels available to make the retail sales process as effortless as possible for consumers.

The truth is that there is work to be done both in-store and online. While these are two very different worlds that need to merge, neither is perfect alone. They both require adaption to the abundant changes that consumer retail is facing. Some brick and mortar stores have adopted brave and exciting changes that challenge the traditional notion of offline by employing intelligent use of technology that exploits the physical interactions of offline while emulating the ease and convenience of online. Equally, online operators have explored how to further their customer reach by being available in an offline space. In 2016 Amazon, the leading online retailer, opened its first physical book store in Seattle followed by more than 30 pop-up stores across the US.

By acknowledging that customers are channel agnostic, brands and retailers need to return their focus to what the customers want, and build a multichannel solution to meet their needs. There is no one size fits all approach and although we know that consumers want a continuous brand experience that is personalised, quick and effortless, what does this mean for brands?

Experience

It’s human nature to want to see, touch and feel the goods you are about to purchase. The physical interaction remains an important process in converting retail sales. Tools such as in-store demonstrations, with the use of virtual reality and augmented reality technology, are having a significant impact in engaging and reinvigorating brands experience in-store.

Personal service

While a positive face-to-face interaction in-store will always be the benchmark of good service, increasingly brands are using beacon technology to effectively identify shoppers and offer them relevant promotions based on their online searches or based on the items in their online basket. This, coupled with a positive and helpful experience in-store, is the new pinnacle for brands to aim for.

Ease and convenience

Online always trumps offline in terms of ease and convenience, however business processes such as “click and collect” go some way in providing consumers the best of both worlds. They can shop and select the items that they want to purchase in the comfort of their own homes, but collecting it from the store enables them to do a final quality check to ensure that the goods purchased do in fact meet their expectations of the products.

Brands need to think of surprising new ways to use all the channels and technology available to them to amaze consumers and drive sales. It is a curious new world that is emerging and consumers are waiting to be enchanted.