Why technology is key to seamless, frictionless shopping
Photo by iStock.com
By Dina Townsend, vice president, retail practice leader at RMG
In retail, it's important to create a smooth shopping experience for the consumer, who may well see shopping as a way to escape whatever stresses and hassles they're experiencing in their daily life. Or, alternatively, dread the prospect of trawling around shops and appreciate anything that makes it a headache-free process for them.
Retailers know this, which is why one of the key goals of the industry is to ensure a frictionless customer journey, no matter how, where or what the consumer purchases. However, despite this cardinal rule, making this a reality is much easier said than done.
One of the biggest inhibitors for customers when purchasing goods is the potential inconvenience — whether real or perceived of making a purchase online or in-store. From losing items in an online basket or finding out options are no longer available because a selection took too long, to fighting high street crowds and finding a preferred choice is unavailable — there are many steps along the way that can be frustrating and end up in unsatisfactory shopping experiences for the customer as well as the retailer.
If customers are not enjoying a smooth purchasing experience it will automatically affect the profitability of a retailer, as the customers will either look elsewhere or decide not to bother.
The smart retailer, however, will think about how it can deliver a seamless shopping experience, that flows through both its online and in-store offering. And one of the key elements for delivering this offering successfully, will be affected by how the retailer uses its technology to gain data and follow the journey of its customer in both purchasing environments.
Online and in-store shopping should be seen as complementary options for a customer; whether they research online then go in-store to see the physical option or see a product in-store then comparison research at home and purchase from what they consider to be the best retail option.
Gathering data along this journey is vital for ensuring that a retailer will be providing a preferable shopping experience — there no longer needs to be a disconnect between an online shopping basket and a physical sales register. Or the frustration of finding out that something you have previously looked at online is not in stock when you get to the store.
Data, unique to a specific customer, can be collected at various points along the shopping journey and that data can be collated to provide valuable insight into the customer's habits, needs and preferences. This should no longer be seen as a threat to a person's anonymity by the customer, but embraced as the retailer wanting to make sure they offer them the most relevant range options and promotions and facilitating their shopping experience.
When used well visual customer communication and its back-end technology, is the core factor to providing a seamless shopping experience. It should be seen as the thread that runs through the online, mobile and instore journey and works just as effectively from whichever point the customer starts, as the data, and the insight it delivers, remains true at any point.
Interestingly, statistics have revealed that on Black Friday 2017, roughly 40 percent of sales (on what is traditionally a brick and mortar shopping day), came from a mobile device, and online retail sales in general have increased 16 percent compared to last year.
However, that's not to say that these customers did not also do research in-store as part of the shopping experience. More and more retailers are incorporating interactive shopping experiences as part of their in-store technology.
Smart mirrors where customers can try on different styles capture the choices and go away and think about or interiors stores where various paint, wallpaper and furnishing options can be tried together virtually and considered at a later date, are just a couple of ways that virtual and real environments are working alongside each other.
The technology behind all of these options helps inform the customer on their choices, but also provides insight to the retailer on what promotions or further options might be of value to the customer. This insight is particularly useful for creating targeted social marketing that is specifically relevant to individual consumers.
Fundamentally, to keep customers loyal to their brand, retailers need to be agile, flexible and adaptable to the role of modern digital signage technology and be implementing it in an holistic manner at all the multiple endpoints consumers use.
There should no longer be a concern over high-street versus online, but the approach should be following the customer's complete journey. Without this approach, companies will fail to properly tap into a customer's needs and all the data they hold that can provide them with valuable insight on them.
While digital signage and the technology it holds is not a standalone savior for attracting and retaining customer loyalty, it will give businesses a competitive advantage. Recent research has found over 40 percent of shoppers can change what they buy if relevant information is given by digital displays at the point of purchase.
Consequently, embracing the role of technology and how its role in delivering a complete shopping experience will help retailers survive, grow and even thrive in this increasingly populous and saturated marketplace.