With Shopping Options Multiplying, Retailers Reaching Out
Today's retail trends are straightforward but important to remember: Unify online and physical operations and always put the shopper first.
Retailers and customers can exchange information through a huge variety of platforms today. This fracturing has made it more difficult for companies to present their messages in a clear and uninterrupted way, and the battle for consumer attention has reached new heights of both challenge and importance. Customers' searches for information about brands tend to begin online today, and thus the journey they take from this research to the final purchase can cross over from self-guided browsing at home to a more traditional in-store experience.
Some sellers will be able to ensure the connection between physical retail and the new, multi-platform methods of sales and research remains strong. These brands stand to become leaders in their respective fields, as this feeling of connectivity prevents hitches and detours in the buyer's journey.
"Consumers don't divide their activities up by device or channel."
Status of the market
A recent Mu Sigma graphic, pointed out by My Customer, explained some of the ways companies are keeping online and physical operations close - and the reasons why this is such a good idea. The source noted, for instance, that Web stores should be accessible from the sales floor itself, to ensure that even if an item is not in stock at the moment, the consumer can purchase it anyway. Telling the shopper he or she can go to the website and make the purchase might make that individual give up, but offering an in-store customer kiosk on which to buy makes the whole process extremely easy.
The Mu Sigma data recommended unifying all retail operations into an omni-channel brand experience, explaining this is important because of the way consumers today think about retail. They don't divide their activities up into things that are done in person, actions that need a desktop computer and tasks fit for mobile devices. Ensuring there is matching, corporate-created content that can reach the shopper seamlessly across all preferred channels takes away breaks that might interrupt the buying process.
Consumers today value companies that can deliver exceptional experiences.
Today's consumers have a huge degree of autonomy and self-determination. While it's important to reach them through channels, companies will have to ensure the messages they are sending take the right tone. Customers prefer to be self-guided and informed as opposed to being led, and CMO magazine recently underlined the importance of putting shoppers first when designing retail processes. The source explained that becoming customer-centric and making clients happy is a process that takes place in all departments, not just marketing. Everyone from product development to customer service has some role to play in ensuring buyers get the experience they are looking for.
Gathering data on customers is a key priority, the source explained. Businesses are collecting more than ever, as every touchpoint from corporate websites to in-store kiosks is capable of logging data for later use. This content, however, needs to be prioritized and cleaned for use in strategic planning. This step is important, the source noted, because of the huge volume and variety of data to manage. What processes can be changed or customized through analysis of this data? Service is a good start. CMO specified that when Harris Interactive polled shoppers, 86 percent stated they were willing to pay higher prices for items that come with exceptional service.
The end result of these tech-enabled changes, capturing data and connecting platforms, is a more seamless and engaging experience for customers. Organizations that are able to not just compete in multiple channels but combine them may have a distinct advantage over those that remain fragmented.