14 July, 2017
In the past we’ve seen a lot of articles talking about why brick-and-mortar stores will disappear and why they will not. We clearly believe that physical stores still play a big role in the purchasing process and they will survive into the future thanks to technologies like automatic people counters and other solutions will see below. So everyone has heard about having an omni-channel management system, but why is it do it or dye?
What’s Brick-and-Mortar’s reality?
Nowadays, customers have high expectations of in-stores experience. They expect to find something that they cannot experience buying online, assuming the service will be convenient and flexible not only on retailers’ websites but also in-stores. So there is a different added value that customers assume they’ll find in physical shops, and that is why retailers need to work harder than ever to provide this, which is an original and incredible experience.
While online shopping is increasing, “feel and experience” is becoming an important part of the purchasing process. For instance, people go to stores to see, try, touch a specific product and then end up buying it online. This makes stores essential to complete the buying journey for a lot of customers. According to a study carried out by RetailStore, nearly half of consumers say they are more loyal to the brands they shop at in-store than they are online.
There is also the “click and collect” or “buy online pick up in store” phenomenon. On the one hand, retailers have realized delivery is costly and complex, and this way they eliminate delivery costs and lure customers to the stores. On the other hand, in-store pickup can be good for shoppers, as they can use the internet to compare items, access a larger number of products and secure them, but then don’t have to wait for the delivery and can instead pick them up quicker. Other situations where it can be advantageous to pick up the items in-stores are when shipping isn’t free, when the products are highly demanded or limited, when stores are located in a usual route the shopper takes, etc. In the past 12 months, 46% of survey respondents said they had used “buy online, pick up in store” according to The 2016 Consumer Survey by JDA Software.
What are the essentials needed?
Retailers need to start adopting an omni-channel approach not only monitoring, collecting and studying KPIs from their online sites but also in brick-and-mortar, to have a complete understanding of their customers. At the same time, they also need to develop exceptional experiences both on their websites and in-stores, in order to be competitive and remain relevant.
Then, in order to be able to do it, retailers need to have a complete view of their operations and IT solutions in place. So the retail management software the retailer has is key to succeed in omni-channel approach.
Having access to data in real time and across different operation departments is key to obtain the full potential of each division. Knowing conversion rates, footfall traffic peak hours or staff to visitors ratios, among others, is necessary to take successful actions and improve the performance of each store.
Another important and fundamental necessity to optimize operations is to have a data flow infrastructure that is agile, scalable, stable and allows operations to be driven by integrated platforms.
So we can conclude that the three key actions retailers need to implement as soon as possible are:
– To run the omni-channel experience
– To integrate the IT Architecture
– To take advantage of new technologies: such as automatic people counters and WiFi Tracking
What are the benefits for retailers?
If retailers implement those three actions (for instance, we know a big part of retailers already have people counters or are planning to install them), they will experiment an infinite number of improvements such as immediate visibility of all transactions across multiple channels and operational efficiency. Having all channels united and synchronized allows retailers to optimize operations and this implies having not only a leaner selling process but also a better manufacturing and inventory control.
The success of promotions can also be better quantified and data analytics allows to create future campaigns based on the success of past ones; taking into account indicators such as if the footfall traffic during the promotions increased, if the in-store routes varied due to the promotion being displayed in a certain area of the store, if the returning visitors’ ratio increased, etc. All this an more, is information retailers have access to thanks to people counters and WiFi tracking.
At the same time new technologies and big data can be used to impulse decision making and projections, incentivize customer loyalty, create experimental and original marketing and e-commerce strategies, etc.
Overall, we can say deep and good quality reporting based on data analytics will increase retailers’ profits (check out what is the Return On Investment of a people counting project for a retailer).
What are the benefits for shoppers?
Thanks to technology and the integration of omni-channel management, customers have a better purchasing experience, which is reflected in the improvement of the overall service with the appearance of new functionalities. These brand-new services include punctual and accurate collection after “clicking and reserving” online, having a personalized interaction with shop assistants as they can have deep information of each customer thanks to technology such as mobile engagement solutions, WiFi tracking of smartphones and facial recognition; enjoying optimal staff interaction, which can now be allocated taking advantage of data such as footfall traffic, thanks to people counters. So we can safely say that retailers that jump on board of technology will make shopping in stores and online easier and quicker for customers, and the experience will be more personal and rewarding.
In conclusion, stores need to be attractive not only to the generations they’ve always shopped in brick-and-mortar but also to tech-savy customers who are growing. These have to be incentivized to shop in-stores and there’s no way to do it without having complete awareness of whats happening across all channels. So, retailers that will survive into the future, are the ones who are starting to metamorphose thanks to technology by improving shopping experience.
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