The retail world is moving fast. Players who want to survive and prosper must learn how to adapt to the changes and use them in their favor. Here are the 5 most monumental shifts facing retailers today – and our tips on how to stay atop the market.
1. Shoppers are as knowledgeable as salespeople
Thanks to the internet, it’s now very easy for consumers to do their own research on products before they enter your store’s door to buy. According to the 2016 Nielsen Global Connected Commerce survey, the majority of shoppers research products online before buying. People have been doing their due diligence on durable products such as electronics and travel services for a long time; today, though, this habit has extended to all sorts of products - even groceries! Salespeople are already faced with extremely knowledgeable customers who ask very detailed info about specific items and know what products cost in different stores. This is just going to become more common. Our solution: Your staff should be at least as informed about your products as your customers. Make sure you focus on employee training during their whole career, and not just at the beginning. Give all your salespeople a chance to stay updated with courses and specialized training, and keep them informed about the latest products that are coming in store. Tech can help, too. Arm your sales assistants with a mobile POS connected to inventory: they will be able to quickly check which products are available in store, and look up item descriptions, images and specs. This will ensure that they give well-informed shoppers the best and most rapid service possible.
2. Omni-channel is the new normal
These days, a typical shopping experience may start with researching products on a smartphone while in-store, continue on a tablet and finish with a purchase on the e-commerce site that will later be picked up in a store location. According to a study released by Facebook, today 45 percent of all shopping journeys include some form of mobile interaction; this number will rise in the future, according to the study. The thing is, customers don’t think in terms of channels anymore – they simply look for coherent, consistent shopping experiences, whichever touchpoint they decide to use. But how do retailers stack up? According to a research by Periscope™, a McKinsey Solution, not so well. 78 percent of retailers admit that they are still unable to offer a unified brand experience across all channels. Our solution: The customer journey will only get more complex. Retailers who can’t yet offer a consistent experience on all their touchpoints need to start working immediately on removing barriers. For many companies, this will translate into on the one hand, creating a cultural change inside the organization, and on the other hand, implementing technology that integrates the channels. Can you keep track of a customer’s shopping journey across different devices and in-store? Do you offer services that tie your online and offline channels, such as click & collect? Does your technology enable you to know where all your inventory is located at all times? If the answer is no, you need to do better.
3. Online reviews drive (and kill) business
As review websites grow in number and importance, more and more people express their opinion online – and more and more people use the ever-growing number of reviews to decide which places to patronize, and which ones to avoid. 67 percent of respondents to PwC’s 2016 Total Retail Survey said that reading or writing reviews and comments on social media influences their shopping behavior. Our solution: Online reviews are not going to go away, so you might as well embrace them. Start by trying to encourage fans to write positive reviews: create a dialogue with online communities of people who love your product, to foster their love for your brand and prompt fans to express it. Promote reviews that make you look great, and most importantly, do not ignore negative ones! Respond politely to unhappy customers, making sure they feel heard. Just by the act of answering a complaint you may be able to keep a customer: in a study from Maritz and Evolve24, 83 percent of people who had received a reply to a complaint considered themselves satisfied by the mere fact that they got a response – even when their problem had not been solved. A Coop supermarket in Switzerland was shocked to discover that their most loyal fans were not happy shoppers, but customers who had made a complaint, and had their problems resolved.
4. People buy online for price and convenience
The constant growth of online shopping is not going to stop anytime soon. In 2014, online retail sales represented just 5.9 percent of total retail sales; by 2019, it is expected that online will make up 12.4 percent of global retail sales. Our solution: Although brick-and-mortar retail will not die, it will have to transform to survive – and as margins shrink, selling products may not even be your main focus in the future. If you do not yet have an e-commerce site, it’s time to move online - now. Build a functional site and make sure you can easily be found on search engines and social media. Make sure that your online and offline presence are consistent in terms of branding and experience, and do not forget that you can (and should) use your e-commerce site to drive customers through your doors.
5. People are overexposed to commercial messages
Today people are constantly exposed to images and ads. As a consequence, most of these communications are ignored. Studies find that businesses have just eight seconds (sometimes even less!) to catch their audience’s attention. In a world full of colors, sounds, images and brands, how do you make your products stand out? How do you reach each single customer with exactly the right message for them? Our solution: This is where personalization comes in. Retailers will increasingly need to optimize all their touchpoints with the goal of collecting customer data. This information can then be used to provide each shopper with advertisements and promotion that is relevant to them – a special, targeted message that will get their attention. The world of retail is in constant motion, and only those who keep up will still be around to talk about it tomorrow. To learn what the most innovative companies in your industry are doing, read our latest whitepaper discussing the most important trends we will encounter in the retail of the future.