Capgemini’s recent research shows us that physical shopping interactions are exceeding pre-pandemic levels. And 72 per cent of consumers expect to resume significant interactions with physical stores after the pandemic subsides, compared with just 60 per cent who regularly shopped physically pre-pandemic. This shows physical stores still have a purpose in the overall omnichannel experience.
However, the way retailers connect and engage with their consumers will be different than it has been in the past, as the distinction between online and in-store is less clear today and, increasingly, consumers expect a comparable level of service and experience across both channels.
What this tells us is that the retailer-consumer relationship needs a transformation. There must be a shift from siloed transactional thinking to an approach that involves a strong, long-term relationship. Retailers must build relevance to drive loyalty and, thus, lifetime value.
Focus on the job they need to get done
First, let’s consider the various needs, and thus the changing mindset, of consumers.
Imagine a customer planning a quick weeknight dinner on the way home from work. Here the need is ease, simplicity and the ability to locate and purchase ingredients quickly in-store. Does the app they’re scrolling through have quick and easy meal solutions, with ingredient location navigation corresponding to the consumer’s local store?
When that same consumer cooks for family or friends over the weekend, they have the time to be inspired and source the necessary things to make a more elaborate meal. Does this consumer find that inspiration when browsing partner websites, the retail website, or the aisles of the store? Could they find recipes personalised to their mission and dietary preferences while in-store, through the application of rich data?
Retailers need to understand the different points at which their customers choose to engage with them and all their retail channels. The same customer will require a different interaction with you based on the job they need to complete at any particular moment in time.
This is where we start to see how a customer-first approach across all channels can build engagement and loyalty.
Where do retailers begin? Consider the consumer. What is their need in that moment? What data do they have available that can help them make informed decisions on the task they’re performing, taking the friction out of the experience? Answering questions like these has led to increases in service attributes, such as in-store curated recipes and content, dining in at the grocery, and in-store makeup lessons.
Omnichannel is not a new concept. Many retailers have multiple channels and touchpoints: a website or an app, social media, and their physical stores. What will drive differentiation is how data is leveraged into insights to create experiences that are seamless and personalised.
Emerging technology such as AI and machine vision can be used to derive deep insights. Insights that allow for personalisation of experiences for consumers, creating a lasting impact.
Similarly, AI, robotic process automation, and AR will allow for immersive opportunities to improve customer experiences, which will have integrated digital and physical touchpoints. For example, does the data show an expectation that an online shopping experience should mirror an in-store experience? If so, a retailer might consider AR and VR products to allow consumers to ‘try on’ products virtually.
Gartner data shows the percentage of enterprises using AI has grown 270 per cent in four years.
A fast path to satisfaction and loyalty
As the lines between online and offline shopping have converged, shoppers have come to expect cutting-edge delivery services across all channels. Capgemini research shows that 42 per cent of shoppers have said delivery and fulfilment are more important to them than any other service.
This provides retailers an opportunity to triage their approach to better meet customer expectations.
Today’s consumer doesn’t just want the right product, they want it fast and with ease. They want to be able to browse a retailer’s online store, check stock levels, reserve their product and pick it up. Consider the click-and-collect experience; is it fit-for-purpose for the consumer’s experience? Or does it require the consumer to navigate confusing parking bays at their local shopping centre, where they need to call a number and wait for a retail worker to find them with their product? Should retailers consider having click-and-collect locations only in stand-alone stores, to mitigate any competing and confusing factors?
The experience differs based on the complexity it presents the consumer; in turn, the relationship with the brand differs.
Brands and retailers should continue to invest in digital technologies around fulfilment and services, including automation, warehousing, traceability, and data.
As consumer behaviour evolves, storefronts can use their physical presence to mirror consumer-led trends and meet consumer expectations in the right ways.
For retailers to make the right decisions, they should use the treasure trove of available data; from granular consumer preferences across multiple product categories, to information regarding stock levels and customer sensitivity to price, it can allow storefronts to make data-driven decisions.
Retailers need to centre the needs of their consumers, and take friction out of the moments that matter. Whether it is reducing the pain of refund processes or investing in geo-location technology to rework click-and-collect services.
In summary, omnichannel is here to stay, and the needs and expectations of consumers change based on the jobs we need to perform at any moment in time.
Retailers will succeed when they deliver an omnichannel experience that flexes according to the customer’s ‘jobs to be done’ and focuses on creating a frictionless experience for the consumer, each and every time they interact with their brand.
Connectivity to consumers is key for retailers. For those who want to stay on top of their consumers’ needs, data is king. The right data, turned into insights to inform decisions that lead to removing friction and continuously improving fulfilment, will allow retailers to take their first step in becoming more intuitive overall. Over time, they will surprise and delight.