It is becoming clear that the old way of thinking about retail, which focuses on physical vs digital, no longer applies. Consumers expect seamless, frictionless shopping experiences at every stage of their journey. They can browse an item on their smartphones, […]
It is becoming clear that the old way of thinking about retail, which focuses on physical vs digital, no longer applies. Consumers expect seamless, frictionless shopping experiences at every stage of their journey. They can browse an item on their smartphones, reserve it online, and pick it up in-store. It’s not only consumers who are changing the shopping environment. Forward-thinking retailers combine the best of both worlds. They bring technological innovations to transform the store environment and use traditional service models to enhance the digital experience.
It’s hard to predict how shopping will look ten years from now, given the industry’s rapid transformation. The National Retail Federation’s most recent State of Retailing Online Survey provides insight into the future of retail. This study examines the attitudes of retailers and the investments they make online and in-store.
1. Technology is changing the store environment
The majority of retailers who were surveyed stated that they will be opening new stores in 2018 as opposed to closing existing ones. This is an alternative view to claims that ecommerce is replacing the physical retail industry. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the retail environment will change. Many retailers are changing the way they do physical retail. They have begun to streamline checkout and point-of-sale processes and created endless aisles. The technology is not the only thing they are focusing on; employees remain crucial to the shopping experience. This is an example: 61% of respondents plan to invest in employee development and training.
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2. Omnichannel continues to evolve
Omnichannel remains a major area of investment for retailers. Omnichannel was the top priority of 21% of retailers for 2018. This is a large part of the reason why retailers are focusing on multiyear initiatives like improving shipping times, in store pick up, and pricing.
3. Digital Retail continues to be the bright spot it’s been for years… but experience is key
Strong mobile commerce performance has helped retailers’ e-commerce businesses in recent years. However, it is important to continue to drive growth in these key metrics such as conversion rates and other metrics. One of the main ways that retailers plan to improve their online experience is through personalization. This will include tailoring offers to customers and creating images that reflect specific factors, such as weather and geography.
4. Mobile shopping still has a long way to go
Retailers’ top digital priority in 2018 is mobile, as they continue to receive a large percentage of their traffic via mobile devices. Mobile still has a low conversion rate. Retailers are making investments in mobile content and search engine optimization to address this issue. What are they spending their time and less money on? Tablets and apps. The survey found that mobile apps generate only 4 percent of online sales, compared to 32 percent from mobile browsers. This despite years of hard work to create great apps experiences.
Report: Shoppers Want Their Own “Devices”
In-store associates have been a key part of successful retailers’ success for decades. They provide excellent customer service, advice, and personalized attention to shoppers. However, customers now prefer less human interaction in the digital age. Instead, they turn to in-store technology for assistance, advice, and product and price information.
HRC Retail Advisory surveyed almost 3,000 shoppers across North America to better understand their motivations and what they want from shopping . The survey found that a staggering 95 per cent prefer to shop alone, unless they need assistance from a store associate. Retailers need to balance customer service and recommendations with technology that provides the information and help they need. In the survey, it was also found that shoppers often seek out opinions and input from their friends and family through sharing photos of products on social media. This is especially true when they are shopping for apparel.
Retailers are racing against time to bring the latest and greatest technologies to their stores to make shopping easier and more enjoyable. To increase sales and traffic over the long-term, retailers need to invest in the right technology and provide the best customer experience. These are the top technology and service offerings, according to survey respondents.
- Price-check scanners Approximately 85 percent of respondents to a survey said they would prefer to be able check prices at price scanners placed throughout a store, rather than asking a sales associate.
- Order online, pick up in store: Almost 69 percent of respondents said they value the ability to place an order online and pick it up in person. This is likely due to their desire to “try before you buy” when buying tech products. Similar percentages of respondents (65%) said that this service is important when purchasing apparel.
- In-store access to social media: Almost 70% of Generation Z respondents, and 63 per cent of millennial respondents, said that they use social media to gather opinions and share photos before buying. This is especially true when it comes to apparel shopping. A third of consumers polled said they value free Wi-Fi in-store.
A survey revealed that consumers prefer to interact with their phones via smartphones. This suggests that retailers have a great opportunity to offer convenience and personalization in store using mobile apps. A third of the respondents stated that mobile apps are important features for stores. They can check out from their smartphones, get sales information, and use an in-store app.
Interestingly, 52 percent of survey respondents said they were open to human interaction when shopping technology products. This suggests that most shoppers would like to be able to seek advice from tech-savvy store associates. However, 76% of respondents would love an app in-store that could offer personal recommendations for tech products.
Our survey revealed that customers are more interested in tech-based customer service than those provided by in-store staff. However, not all in-store tech services are created equal. Retailers who don’t know which technologies are most important to consumers run the risk of losing customers and incur unnecessary costs. Retailers have the best chance of aligning their tech investments with customers’ preferences and expectations by adding human customer service to their offerings, such as in-store price scanners and push notifications via smartphone.