Seamless Customer Experience: this is retail’s digital future

Concept of online shoppingThe digital world has disrupted our marketing worlds and changed the way business communicates with people. Social media has opened the door to two-way conversations with data giving us a better understanding of our market and mobile making our message more accessible to the general consumer.

Over the past few years we have placed much focus on developing digital channels to make the most of social media, mobile and data collection; however I believe that this focus has swung business to the opposite end of the pendulum and has put too much focus on digital channels and not the consumer themselves.

Without doubt the digital world has utterly changed the way in which both companies and individual consumers alike do business. To think that businesses thrived in the pre-mobile phone, pre-smart phone, pre-app era seems inconceivable for many, and illustrates just how technologically advanced we have become in a short period of time.

In a recent report “The Future State of Retail”, nine digital trends were shared with the retail industry. In short these trends are: Augmented Reality, Curated Commerce, Customisation, Gamification, M-Commerce, Personalisation, Seamless Customer Experiences, Social Retailing, and Clever Conveniences.

The evolution of ROPO and Showrooming

Although only one out of 10 purchases get made online, just under four out of 10 purchases get researched online. Understanding this shift from online to offline is far more important for a retailer than understanding the dynamics of an ecommerce sale. The mistake that many people make is in assuming that the customer journey starts and ends in the same channel.

With more empowered consumers taking control of how they shop, brands no longer have the power to contain them in one channel — consumers are completing their purchases at a time and place that suits them, and convenience is king. Customers are increasingly and seamlessly moving between channels, and ROPO (Research Online Purchase Offline) and showrooming are really just terms that refer to the fragmentation of the customer’s path to purchase:

One of the most intriguing insights has been “Seamless Customer Experiences” which shows that digital in the retail industry is growing up. The trend is that retailers will no longer see digital as a threat to existing retail operations but rather looking at ways to enhance the shopping experience by leveraging digital shopping habits and consumer trends. In essence changing the negative perception of ROPO and showrooming towards a more positive outlook to create seamless physical and digital experiences.

A seamless customer experience will be one where customers have synchronised access to information — both online and offline — like in-store inventory, wish lists, customer reviews, related products, and so on.

Those who are able to unite their channels to the extent that in-store staff are able to identify customers in real-time, and pull up their browsing history and wish list items will find their efforts rewarded by consumers who have grown to expect the functionality of what they are able to do online – and want to see this in-store.

Bridging the gap between online and offline will be a key differentiator for retailers in the coming years. Consumers are looking for seamless, serendipitous shopping experiences – adding complexity and hurdles to the consumer’s shopping experience is counter-productive to the retailer’s bottom line.

Forward-thinking retailers are finding opportunities to engage connected customers with unique in-store experiences that are a mix of digital and physical – creating a tangible version of the information, convenience, and value that customers can access online.

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