Newspaper Advertising Bureau joint MD Gill Randall recently attended the World Retail Congress in London where the phrase of choice was ‘omni channel’ or ‘multi channel’ shopping and communication.
The reality of the modern day retail space is that consumers are still shopping in-store for the most part but they’re also shopping online more and more. While these findings were largely UK based, we can assume that the same trends will hit our shores soon, albeit off a lower base.
Generally many retailers have embraced the concept of multi channel shopping and provide consumers with easily accessible, physical ‘brick and mortar’ or online shopping facilities. In fact, in two years time, 63% of retailers say they want to be fully integrated and 77% want to offer smart phone mobisites over the same time frame.
If retailers are still grappling with multi channel, it’s time to start creating a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels including mobile, PC, bricks-and-mortar, television and catalogues – the list goes on.
We were fortunate to hear from the likes of Sir Phillip Green (Arcadia Group), Dave Cheesewright (President and CEO Walmart EMEA region) and Dan Cobley (MD, Google), who all alluded to the same concept best expressed by Philip Clark (CE of Tesco) who said, “We’ve called time on the old retail ‘space race’. In this new world, retail will not be about buying large swathes of new real estate but how we as businesses relate to our customers, their communities and the countries in which we operate.”
In brief, the shopper trends that emerged showed that overall, basic shopping needs are going to remain the same and that the more we live a virtual life at home, the more we need to congregate. More and more, consumers are curating their own shopping experiences. They’re choosing when, where and how to engage with retailers and consumers expect retailers to be available at a time that suits them, whether its 6am or 9pm.
People also use different stores for different reasons and despite the availability of more and more loyalty programmes; the irony is that customers are less loyal than ever before. Shoppers the world over have become more price savvy, even the wealthiest are looking for good value or in the words of Dave Cheesewright (President and CEO Walmart EMEA region) – consumers are still loyal but they are loyal to everybody.
From a retailer point of view, the trends point to a business model that needs to evolve. There are also indications that there will be fewer occupied shops and over the next five years store volume will decrease and overall, there will be an increase in the number of smaller convenience stores.
Shopping centres serve as much of a critical role as they ever did in forming and maintaining communities but the most successful stores are those where digital meets the physical and where stores shift from transactional to experimental.
Another emerging digital trend is that from a consumer perspective, if a retailer doesn’t deliver, there’s no value for them. In addition, consumers who buy across channels tend to buy three to five times more than single channel buyers despite the fact that only 3% of retailers feel that they are ahead of the game in terms of their online presence.
While the multi channel marketing years are ripe for the picking, retailers are not without their challenges. So despite there currently being a flat global playing field, retailers need to excel at everything they do.
The ‘new rules’ of retail dictate that marketers must create a memorable experience for the consumer both offline and online. Neurological as well as emotional connections need to be made. Importantly, and obviously, distribution networks need to back up marketing efforts. You can’t achieve a level of neurological experience if you don’t have control of your distribution network.
Social media has given rise to an ‘agnostic consumer’ who expects retailers to keep up with them. Retailers need to adapt to the new demands of the digital shopper instead of buying additional retail space.
Mobile is simply an access point; the content is what matters. The same applies to other channels too: content is king. Customers should be invited into your brand through traditional media and continue to be engaged on digital platforms.
In summary, to survive, retailers need to embrace technology, be flexible and determined, use different business models to test the water in new markets, build public trust, lead from the front and show imagination and courage.