Why are retailers not prepared for the digital-first shopping experience?

Posted on September 19, 2018

Digital First Shopping

The rise of digital-first shopping creates opportunities for retailers to redefine the way their bricks and mortar stores engage shoppers, yet many still aren’t ready to take full advantage.

Retailers that view digital trends only as a challenge may be failing to embrace the strategies, technologies and IT networks needed to help physical stores thrive.  

Digital first doesn’t outweigh personal experiences

It’s true that more people are shopping online, and increasingly via their mobile phones. However, in-store purchases are still the benchmark for consumers looking to be delighted by the shopping experience.

Consumer trends compiled by PwC in Australia reveal that over the 2017 Christmas period, 72 percent of Aussies shopped at physical stores. The research also shows 74 percent of shoppers follow social media influencers to keep up to date or find new products.

Shopping is a social, engaging activity—which often starts online and ends in store, provided retailers leverage both channels to make the overall customer experience special and personalised.

For example, using approaches like ‘click and collect’ enables people to browse first using their desired channels, but also entices people into your store—that gives you a chance to up-sell, cross-sell or build a more personal relationship and long-term loyalty.

Connectivity spurs curiosity

More people now turn to the internet for trusted advice. Google research shows watching videos of YouTube creators as they shop has increased 1,000 percent in the past two years. In addition, there’s been a significant rise in personal searches that include terms like ‘for me’, and ‘near me’ and ‘should I?’.  

People want and expect tailored answers as they need them, from the moment they type ‘clothing stores near me’. Smartphones put information at people’s fingertips, but importantly for bricks and mortar retailers, they also make shoppers more accessible and easy to find on the move.

Retailers must start digitally-engaging with shoppers beyond the limits of their online activity. Tapping into opportunities to engage people in real-time, while they’re in or near your physical location, requires sophisticated levels of in-store connectivity—but it’s worth it.

Fortunately, modern technologies, when supported by the right network, enable you to create a truly seamless omnichannel experience.

For instance, by adopting beacon and sensor technology, which uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to identify and communicate with consumers’ smartphones over a short range. You can know exactly when a customer is near or inside your shop, then target them with up-to-the-minute promotional offers.

Digital signage solutions make it possible for you to deliver real-time, optimised messages via screens placed within aisles or on shelves, or offer interactive self-service search options in-store.

Technology cultivates convenience

The moment of payment is another opportunity for retailers to embrace technology to bring the best of online shopping into the real world. Convenience is a big factor in the popularity of online shopping, which continues to be enhanced by ‘buy now, pay later’ options like Afterpay.

One in four Australians would prefer a cashless society, and the desire to use contactless card payments and mobile payments continues to grow. Some people don’t ever carry cash. Retailers relying on a physical presence can and must make point of sale as seamless as possible.

Making face-to-face transactions easy and fast might mean empowering sales teams with tools that allow them to transact anywhere—such as mobile POS devices. Often retailers will also need cloud-based POS software that links customer interactions to stock or supply chain information in real-time—so your team is never caught short when providing service.

Embracing these digital trends also relies on retail businesses having solid ICT foundations. You can’t give retail shoppers the digital experiences they deserve with slow connections, or a lack of streamlined data-sharing. You need a secure, fast and reliable network solution to underpin your in-store technologies, software and data.

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