Omnichannel commerce strategies, retailnment, BOPIS, and shop-for-impact: what do all these terms mean, and how will they shape the retail customer experience in the years to come? Take a look at this extensive review to stay in the know and meet your shoppers’ latest expectations.
💡You need to read this article If you’re planning to launch a new retail business, or pivot an existing one to outsmart the competition.
Remember the last time you shopped for your favorite brand in your favorite place? There’s no doubt that the three P’s (product, price and promotion) influence our purchasing decisions, but there’s also a kind of magic that pulls you into that very store and turns your pockets inside out over and over again.
Retail professionals call it “customer experience,” and invest fortunes in research, branding, and technology to make it as rich and immersive as possible. So, what is customer experience, and what do you need to do to get it right?
💡Сustomer experience, or CX, describes the way a consumer interacts with and perceives a brand. It consists of specific touchpoints at every stage of the buying cycle, and therefore covers the entire customer journey, from marketing activation to post-purchase services like returns and exchanges. Some examples of such touchpoints include ads, signage, showrooms, storefronts, and product or check-out pages on a website.
In retail, consumers can interact with a brand either online (in social media, apps, ecommerce platforms, or marketplaces) or in-store. The exact split between channels will depend on how digitized a particular retail business is.
The reason is clear: a great CX translates into money, bringing up to a 16% price premium. In the long run, it also contributes to customer loyalty and lifetime value, and minimizing acquisition costs.
Here are some positive outcomes of a great online and offline customer experience:
More successful transactions.
Higher conversion rates.
Higher average basket value
average units per basket (AUB) and average order frequency (AOF).
At first glance, nothing has really changed. People still value speed, seamlessness, and a human touch. But recently, there’s been a massive shift to online, and the competition is off the charts, so these expectations have already become the baseline, not something to boast about.
The pandemic has encouraged people to explore new services, change their shopping habits, and try new brands. Facing the new consumer demands, the market has split into two camps: retailers who have managed to innovate and keep up the pace, and those who are lagging behind.
And this is not about adopting disruptive technologies. Actually, the best way for a retail business to ride the pandemic wave is to execute and scale omnichannel commerce strategies and listen to their consumers. That means providing a smart cross-platform infrastructure and quick, personalized service wherever their audiences are.
In 2020, we saw an impressive growth in ecommerce, as many traditional businesses faced the fact that launching and scaling an online channel was a matter of survival. In 2021, sales are continuing to shift online, but retailers are dealing with another challenge: finding a middle ground and balancing between offline and online.
On the one hand, consumers have gotten used to online shopping and are now looking for the same service standards when they hit the brick-and-mortar shops again. On the other hand, they value the human touch more than ever, and the goal is to bring it online.
Online retail challenges
Offline retail challenges
How to add a human touch?
How to recreate all the typical touch-and-smell in-store experiences in such categories as apparel
How to leverage technology and scale omnichannel strategies?
How to provide the best online CX in terms of website speed and performance for 10, 100, or 100,000
How to survive reduced footfall when consumers are hesitant to return in-store?
How to provide great CX under COVID restrictions and social distancing?
How to enrich in-store experiences with perks from ecommerce? For example, how to recreate
How to adopt and scale omnichannel strategies and compete with digital-first companies?
There are also some common issues to take into account:
Merging omnichannel shopping into one unique and personalized experience across the increased amount of touchpoints;
Competing for attention now that lots of new players have started investing in online advertising;
Making a difference and meeting the expectations of Gen-Z consumers.
If you plan to launch a retail business or pivot the one you already have, keep these five major trends in mind. You might not find all of them to be revolutionary insights, but the devil’s always in the details, and you might find that you’re losing focus on one of these important factors.
Contrary to what you might think, the omnichannel strategy doesn’t mean being present everywhere, like social networks, marketplaces, brick-and-mortar stores, smart watches, fridge screens, you name it.
What it really means is:
knowing your core audience’s shopping patterns and being where they are;
increasing visibility in the places where people discover your products;
tracking customer journeys and creating retargeting sequences;
providing consistent cross-channel branding and messaging;
leveraging existing online and offline touchpoints with technology and personalization.
Experts are talking about redefining brick-and-mortar store spaces and pointing to pop-up formats as the most high-potential ones. Creating short-term modular spaces with a strong concept behind them is a new approach to attract more consumers and save money, since you don’t have to commit to long-term contracts and invest in long-lasting installations. The idea of unique content that is intended to vanish at some point contributes to the CX, inspiring exclusivity and fear of missing out.
💻Online Strategy: Going headless to fit any screen and platform
When it comes to online, the challenge is to be present where your consumers are. Considering the emerging Internet of Things (IoT), the list of screens, devices, and platforms can be endless. The trend is to trim this list to your target audience and use technology to deliver content adapted to individual context. Headless CMSs and ecommerce platforms will help you achieve that goal.
Global sustainability and social impact trends influence purchasing decisions, making them more sophisticated. More and more consumers, especially the younger ones, opt for purposeful, sustainable, and greener options.
According to Shopify, a third of younger consumers in 2021 shop to have an impact, and more than half prefer sustainable and green products.
Another global trend influencing modern retail is inclusiveness in both employee and customer experiences. Retail biggies are already adopting this trend by creating manifestos and making commitments that cover their product and employer-brand strategies.
Driven by customers’ needs and concerns, ecommerce and offline retail biggies have been developing a range of cashier-less concepts, from curbside pickups to smart carts and BOPI (buy online, pick up in-store) services.
According to Shopify, more than half of consumers are more comfortable making contactless purchases and are ready to plan and schedule time for in-store shopping for the sake of social distancing.
The smartest thing about such innovations is making the experience touchless, and the fact that it’s linked to loyalty programs: both Amazon smart carts and 7-Eleven payments are activated through their apps with membership. Besides safer transactions, their customers get extra rewards and discounts.
Another trend is linked closely to the post-pandemic reality: there are fewer reasons than ever to go to a brick-and-mortar store. To tempt your consumers, go beyond simple grab-and-go patterns, and provide enriching in-shop entertainment options.
According to futurists, the conventional retail model will sooner or later give place to immersive theater-like experiences: a blend of entertainment and shopping.
“A resurgence in shopping malls, offering a richer range of experiences by blending retail, music, dining, and entertainment will take its place.” Richard Hames, futurist
This trend is already being taken advantage of by sports and electronic brands, allowing consumers to get product experience right on the spot. For example, Vans is launching ramps in line with its “Off The Wall” branding, and Samsung offers immersive AR experiences. Walmart turned its supermarkets into outdoor spaces, and Selfridge rebranded itself as a venue for “non-traditional ceremonies”.
Last but not least, this trend is evergreen: all retailers always have and always will struggle to accelerate their operations and logistics. Needless to say, not all businesses have mastered fast shipping and returns, and even fewer can boast about exceptional web performance.
According to Shopify, more than a third of online shoppers get frustrated by slow shipping and consider the speed of delivery important for CX.
In ecommerce, page load speed and overall website performance are vital for conversions. To push online platforms towards better online experiences, Google is rolling out a page experience algorithm update. The criteria are quite clear: websites with excellent page experience metrics will rank higher, and those with poor performance will lag behind.
Customer experience, or CX, is the full range of interactions between a brand and a consumer. In retail, these interactions (or touchpoints) embrace all the stages of the customer journey, from marketing activation to post-purchase services.
According to 66% of retail executives, CX is one of the most critical drivers for business success, because it directly influences the price premium and customer LTV.
Consumer demands and expectations have changed since the massive shift to online due to the pandemic. They expect fast, personalized services with a human touch, regardless of where they shop.
Listening to consumers and building seamless experiences across relevant touchpoints is the primary strategy for crafting the best CX.
There are five major trends for 2021 and beyond, including emerging omnichannel strategies, sustainability, touchless payments and various ways of pickup, experiential retail, and platform acceleration.