The data from the iVend Retail and Red Shift research are clear: online is not enough to transform retail if the in-store experience does not meet user expectations. The study – which involved visitors to stores in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Spain – confirms a trend that needs to be reversed. Although omnichannel strategy is now the reference model for moving into a new retail phase, it is clear that this wave of renewal is still far from being perfectly accomplished.
The race to integration between physical and online has been seen with the opening of e-commerce stores by large chains, alongside the opening of shops by large online stores. The turning point, however, does not just lie online or in stating a preference for digital: often, it is the point of sale that has been underestimated and forgotten about in this revolution.
The virtual world can, of course, promote the physical store. But, today, customers that come from the web have needs that are often not met when they visit the store. A symbolic figure is the 60% of British and Italian consumers who find shopping online easier than shopping in-store, or the 22% who even feel abandoned at the points of sale. It is clear that e-commerce has the ease of detecting and utilizing users’ data on its side, taking advantage of this to offer a shopping experience that is tailored to the needs of a particular situation. Furthermore, let’s not forget that reconfiguring and significantly altering a store is much more costly and complex than the restyling of a web page.
Recent studies confirm, however, that physical stores continue, and will continue, to have a central role in sales. But, it will be necessary to be aware of the needs of users, coming from e-commerce and from all other channels, and react accordingly.
Indeed, the omnichannel strategy must provide for a personalization of offers, tailor-made for each visitor, especially when it comes to loyalty programs. And not only: sales assistants equipped with tablets for real-time information and smart payments; interactive areas where visitors are granted complete autonomy; and messages sent directly to smartphones to inform and intrigue in an extremely direct way!
That’s not all: while these moves can draw the physical store closer to the needs of a public “pampered” by online shopping, it is possible to even go beyond the web and give visitors an unforgettable experience that can only be accessed in a physical, “analog” place. Let’s not forget, therefore, to speak to visitors through the quality of services, but also through the thrill of entertainment. How? Thanks to in-store radio, digital signage, control of in-store lighting and fragrance, etc.: everything coordinated in a harmonious way to create maximum impact.
However, having everything coordinated just from a design point of view is not enough.
Why online and offline must go hand in hand and be data driven
The content and data of the various channels, from e-commerce to store totems, must be linked. A large “digital warehouse” that collects all brand content and customer data is necessary. A “smart hub” that, on the one hand, feeds digital channels, and on the other, stores and updates customer and prospect data.
This allows decision makers to make choices based on actual data. How should the music, lighting and images be chosen for the physical store? And which content should be shown on the website? There’s nothing to guess at. The intelligent data prompt us.
For example, the same image of a dress may appear on the home page of the website and also on the digital signage at the entrance to the point of sale. It is exactly the same content that, sent from the digital warehouse, is presented in various places, but without being duplicated. In this way, it becomes a data receptor for users that interact with it.
Let’s imagine that a customer, at home, clicks on the home page image to enlarge it and then interacts with it from a store monitor to read the relevant product details. The user data is united: the customer’s profile will be associated with an interest in the dress . When the user returns to the website, they may find an offer on the home page that proposes the purchase of that dress with a 50% discount, when buying a second item.
Does it seem too intuitive to be true? And yet, it is already becoming a reality.