Four Pillars of Retail Customer Experience

In this day and age of omni-channel, retail is all about the customer. What the customer needs and demands, how do they research and shop, which channels do they use to interact, what is their opinion about brands and products, what are their interests and preferences, which demographic segment do they belong to, what influences their purchasing, and so on – these are the questions retailers need to seek answers to, so that they are able to understand and serve their customers better. Additionally, since the consumer behavior is dynamic and so is the retail business, the same answers may not hold true every time. Thus there is a need for the retail companies to put in constant efforts so as to be able to keep pace with their consumers’ changing demands.

In order to be able to service their customers to the best of their abilities, retail brands must have a holistic approach in strategizing, conceptualizing, creating and offering experiences that can impress their customers. As such, the shopping experiences must be positive and enriching. There are 4 essential pillars of retail customer experience – personal, mobile, seamless and secure, that retailers need to focus on for optimal results.

Below is an infographic that illuminates the importance of these 4 pillars with some industry statistics that retailers need to pay attention to.

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Moving from E-commerce to Omni-channel – Top 3 Challenges

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Changing customer expectations, advent of multiple channels of shopping and infusion of technology in retail have given rise to a new breed of shoppers today commonly known as ‘omni-channel shoppers’. These modern day retail shoppers are tech savvy and highly demanding, spoilt for choice and seek value for their money. And they will not want to associate with single channel retail brands as they constantly look for convenience and speed. So not only brick and mortar retail companies but online only e-commerce retail brands also have no choice but to migrate to omni-channel. However with e-commerce companies going for an omni-channel approach that integrates both offline and online retail, there are some challenges that these retailers need to be ready for.

Online-offline integration;
There are basically, two main channels for retail – online (which includes e-commerce, mobile, social media) and offline (which includes brick and mortar store, pop up stores). While integrating the online channels to work seamlessly would seem to be achievable due to similar nature of functionality, adding offline to this mix and looking to achieve a seamless integration can prove to be a daunting task as this calls for necessarily aligning every process and operation of the business to meet the omni-channel objective of unified customer experience. However, the good news is, by employing the right omni-channel for e-commerce software, retailers can achieve a seamless transition from a single channel and holistic omni-channel integration.

Customer and inventory management;
Online retailers generally provide the ‘buy online and ship to home’ fulfillment. However, when looking to go completely omni-channel from e-commerce, there are new fulfillment options that can be added such as buy online pick up in store, endless aisle, and so on. This calls for a seamless and accurate flow of customer and inventory information across all channels. Having a unified view of the inventory and single view of the customer across channel is necessary to handle multiple fulfillment options as well as planning and executing promotion campaigns and loyalty programs for customers across channels. Having a solid omni-channel retail software with CRM, promotions and inventory management capabilities can allow retailers to offer a unified omni-channel customer experience.

Supply chain and logistics management;
Moving from e-commerce to omni-channel though has benefits, it also poses multiple supply chain and logistics challenges. One of the biggest challenge for retailers while implementing an omni-channel process is ensuring product availability at the right channel at the right time and the right price. This is necessary for handling different engulfment options, so that customers can get gratification of their purchases as per their terms. Another challenge which is a necessity in this omni-channel age is reducing delivery time-frames. This again can be tackled by having the right product at the right place so that fulfillment centers are not too far away from the customers’ preferences of where they want to receive their purchases. With the help of a robust omni-channel retail solution encompassing supply chain management can ensure retailers succeed in their omni-channel business.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2017 – key takeaways

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As the Black Friday weekend came to a steady close, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales statistics are now in the books and with that data in hand, it is time to dissect it, dive deeper into various aspects of it, analyse it, and make note of the inferences and learnings to be used for the future.

To begin with, it was reported that American consumers spent over US $19 billion online over the five-day period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday in 2017. This was a 15 percent rise in spends as compared to spends done during the same time-frame last year.

Moving on, more than 64 million Americans used both online and physical stores to carry out their purchases from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Consumers who shopped at both online and brick-and-mortar stores spent US $82 more on an average than online-only shoppers, and US $49 more on an average than brick-and-mortar stores-only shoppers. Black Friday 2017 seemed to be the most popular day for brick-and-mortar retail stores with more than 70 million shoppers, followed by Small Business Saturday (Nov. 25, 2017) with about 55 million shoppers.

One of the most important takeaways for retail businesses basis the above statistics is both offline and online retail channels were used by consumers to shop. In fact, consumers who used more than one channel to shop spent higher on an average than those who used only a single channel.

Mobile shopping or m-commerce has developed in to a popular channel for consumers to discover and buy products. And this popularity reached new levels this year as mobile purchases surpassed those on desktop throughout the entire Black Friday weekend. Mobile sales accounted for more than 60% of orders overall, an increase of 10% over the last year. Thus, retailers across the globe need to definitely harness this channel to boost their sales in the future.

With online, offline and mobile – 3 important channels at play significantly in this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping event, a very important learning for retailers is that omni-channel retail can help them maximize their sales.

Another important aspect of this year’s Black Friday shopping event was that, though dominated by U.S., other countries across the globe also noted a significant spike in their sales on the same day. Reports state that countries like South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom saw over 3 times as many orders on Black Friday, whereas Germany, Canada and France witnessed over 2 times the orders. Other countries like Ireland, Singapore and China also noticed a bump in the number of orders on Black Friday 2017. Thus Black Friday is becoming a global phenomenon soon. For retail businesses across the globe, this translates into an opportunity to attract more customers and drive higher sales.

Retail brands looking to strike big in the near future must pay heed to these key takeaways and use the right combination of people, processes and technology to succeed.

Are Pop-Up Stores Adding A New Dimension To Retail?

According to Pop Up Republic, a marketing support company that caters exclusively to pop-up shops, “a pop-up store, also referred to as ‘flash retail’, is a shop, a restaurant, a collection of shops, or an event that opens quickly in a temporary location, often occupying abandoned storefronts and vacant mall spaces and is intended to operate for a short period of time.”

The beginning of the 21st century saw the first pop-up stores emerge across the U.S. and in Europe. The last few years have witnessed a rash of pop-up stores as they are perceived to be inexpensive alternatives than year-round rentals that can generate a lot of retail buzz for brands when required. For example, they are often strategically placed during the holiday season for shoppers or put up just in time for the launch of a major product.

The latest versions of pop-up stores are accompanied with more elaborate displays, high-end signage, sophisticated POS systems, latest mobile commerce functionalities, and more interactive and engaging experiences that nurture useful customer-retailer conversations. Retailers who understand that consumers rush to and embrace the various kinds of pop-up spaces, have come to view pop-ups as a strategically innovative and legitimate channel of connecting with their customers.

Today, retail in-store customers can browse through comparative pricing data right from their mobile devices. Whether the consumers are walking into a retail store to buy a product after carefully researching about it online, also known as “webrooming”, or whether they are looking at products in the store with the intention of buying it online, also known as “showrooming”, shopping is evolving at a rapid pace.

Pop-ups are the perfect avenue for online stores to make flash appearances and provide a look and feel of their products to shoppers and if done properly, have them become intrigued enough to buy them online.  A brick-and-mortar retailer can set up a pop-up for showcasing or launching a new product with minimum inventory.

The line between the online and offline world is blurring at a swift pace and the retail industry needs to keep up with the evolving shopping habits of the consumers. Pop-up retail will prove to be a catalyst in this direction.

The impressive growth of pop-up retail can be seen in the fact that it was a zero dollar industry in 2003 but flourished into an 8 billion dollar industry in 2013. Pop-up continues to drive innovation and offer several key opportunities thus adding a new dimension to retail.