Today’s consumer loves convenience. Most retailers have made it as easy as possible for them to shop without ever leaving the house. Even so, brick-and-mortar is not dead—not even on life support. Shopping in-store is still the center of the customer relationship. What retailers are shifting toward now is not purely online or in-store but rather an omnichannel approach. With omnichannel retail, the role of the store must evolve.
Consumers Want Options in an Omnichannel Retail World
The perception is that brick-and-mortar is having a very long death scene. Except that’s not what the data says. Looking at statistics of what consumers buy online versus in-store, it really comes down to what they are buying. In these stats, you’ll find that bigger purchases—cars, tools, appliances, and jewelry—are most often bought in-store. While toys and games get the most online purchases. This data further shows that shoppers want both options. Omnichannel retail is the focus of every smart retailer.
Retail Is Evolving, Stores Need to Relinquish Traditional Role
With new channels in the landscape of omnichannel retail comes change, which means stores have to as well. It’s not business as usual. In fact, these new retail channels have increased competition. Retailers now have to battle digital-only players in a crowded space. There are also the increased costs associated with omnichannel retail and the ability to offer goods across multiple channels. There’s also pricing pressure, as digital channels have become more transparent.
These shifts have caused physical stores to lose value if they remain in a traditional role. If retailers want the in-store experience to be enhanced and meaningful, they have to change the role it has played and transform into part of an omnichannel strategy.
Stores in today’s retail ecosystem still need to be the center of the customer relationship. Let’s look at how retailers can strategically make this shift in an omnichannel world.
The Value and Emerging Role for Stores
Consumers’ shopping and buying behaviors often reflect conflicting trends. First, shoppers do spend more time browsing online with data indicating that 88% of shoppers pre-research before making a purchase. That pre-research can end with a purchase online or in stores. So, how do you get them in store? What’s the store’s new role in an ever-changing omnichannel world?
First, it’s good to know that shoppers still want in-store experiences. Buying behavior also remains tightly integrated to the in-store experience. The physical store is still the channel of choice according to research—even for millennials and other digital natives. This may seem contrary to what the picture of retail is with so many big names filing for bankruptcy and closing stores. Yet, other retailers are opening new locations. Some failed while others thrived. It really comes down to the fact that those which failed did not embrace omnichannel retail. They instead held onto what they’d always done.
Stores should play the lead role in today’s marketplace. When stores remain at the heart of the relationship between consumers and brands, they win. However, it’s not so easy. It requires revamping what the in-store experience is, and the way to do this is with a new perspective that leans heavily on technology.
The Power of POS Data
For stores to flourish in their new role, they’ll need technology to get there. This means capturing all the opportunities that happen every day in-store. First, consider all the data you already have. Start with your POS data.
The value of this data goes beyond what you actually sold. There are more insights here to find. The analysis of this data takes you down to the product level but also gives it context like time, day, and why certain items were purchased together.
What if you could see a pattern of consumers buying two items together? Then it would make sense to bring these products closer together. If a significant percentage of buyers purchase a shirt and pair of shoes together, rethink your merchandising and how you can show the items together.
Other trends could show that you sell a particular item more during the afternoon than the morning. Then it may be prudent to push that product toward the checkout area afternoon. Little changes like this could actually increase sales.
In-Store Offers Based on Consumer Behavior in Other Channels
These are just a few examples of the power of your POS data. But you have even more than that already. In omnichannel retail, you should be able to follow a buyer’s journey across channels. It is possible to know what a shopper has browsed online thanks to tracking capabilities and cookies. You may also be able to collect data on how that consumer engages with you on social media.
Then when that customer comes to the store, their history is available. This allows brands to communicate with personalized communications. What if that shopper, who’s been researching a set of cookware on your site and liked some of your posts, lands in store? Would a customized offer on that product make the difference? At the point the shopper walks into your store, they may still be undecided about what to buy, but they are interested.
Tracking that customer from interest to purchase is the goal of every omnichannel retail strategy. How do you get there? The Internet of Things (IoT) can help with beacons and sensors. Something as simple as offering Wi-Fi is a good move. When a shopper enters your store and gets on your network, the device becomes “known”. With the right AI-engine behind it, all the data on that consumer becomes combined, resulting in push notification or email with an offer.
Consumers are not giving up on stores. They still want to walk in, feel and touch what they want. Stores are still a place of discovery for shoppers. Now that you know about how you can harness their in-store behavior to evolve their role in omnichannel retail, it’s time to make some changes.