A recent webinar, hosted by Demandware, has once again highlighted the growing prominence of omni-channel retailing. Here, we provide an insight into some of the points raised during the discussion.
The biggest challenge in recent years has been for retailers to strike a balance between online sales and encouraging the consumer through the doors of an actual store. Whilst Internet shopping can offer individuals greater convenience, there is still a desire from people to physically go into a store and enjoy the experience of purchasing items. From a retailer’s point of view, high street retailing also tends to result in greater consumer engagement with their brand.
Many retailers are acknowledging that there is a middle ground between online and offline sales. Through the blending of physical and digital customer journeys, we will begin to see the successful retailers of the future taking the best from both worlds to offer individuals an enhanced, omni-channel shopping experience.
The uptake of mobile communications is set to soar – by 2018 there will be five billion portable devices on the planet. If it was thought the Internet had a big effect on retailing, mobile devices are set to take it to the next level. It is estimated that the Internet wave had a 10 per cent impact on the worldwide economy, whilst it is predicted that the upsurge in mobile devices will impact by up to 50 per cent. It is this increased number of personal electronic devices that will give retailers a platform to push forwards with the creation of a true omni-channel experience.
Some retailers have already begun to implement services based on this technology, Marks & Spencer for example has started trialling its ‘endless aisle’ service. Consumers are able to scan items in-store with their mobile phones in order to purchase or reserve goods. This takes the convenience of online shopping and blends it with the physical customer journey within a retail environment.
Services such as these are not necessarily in place to drive top line sales, but exist to enrich the brand experience. Building ‘brand stickiness’ is all about providing a service and customer journey that is new, interesting and efficient. Loyalty to the retail brand will help to keep customers coming back into the store.
The next decade will provide a watershed moment for retailers. The rapid uptake in ever-advancing mobile technology is providing the basis for the customer journey and omni-channel retailing to take centre stage as the major persuading factors in pulling consumers away from Internet shopping, and back into stores.