The UK retail sector will change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50. The challenge for retailers to satisfy customers is now greater than ever. Customer loyalty is at an all-time low whilst expectations have never been higher. Retailers are now expected to provide an effective service across multiple channels whilst maintaining a sustainable cost model. At the same time, it’s imperative that your business is consistent in its processes across all channels from start to finish. Consumers expect the same experience whether in-store, online or via mobile.
Now initially this is likely to appear daunting, that’s a huge shift in a very short space of time and there’s the added complication of the legacy systems in place currently. But the reality is that by harnessing the benefits of digitisation, this change actually represents an exciting opportunity for you to increase productivity and efficiency, and ultimately deliver a better service to customers.
By 2020 it will be possible to connect with your customers like never before, providing them with a more personalised experience based on their individual shopping habits. You will be able to use analytics to deliver relevant, targeted and timely messaging. The introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT) will enable your stores to share information openly, fostering stronger relationships between your brand and your customers. You will be able to see where a customer is, understand or predict what they are looking for and show them where it is in store or how to order it, all by connecting the digital data dots.
What’s crucial is that you bridge the gap between your current capabilities and your customer expectations. Our 2015 European Shopper Survey revealed that customers want accurate information regarding real-time inventory levels, with 77.7% desiring a designated delivery time. Digitisation can increase productivity and workforce efficiency through inventory management solutions. Warehouse management can be optimised and wastage levels reduced. Faster picking at higher accuracy. Click and collect options can be enhanced, offering better in-store fulfilment to support same day collection or delivery and more choice, as customer convenience remains a top priority.
For customers, the process of joining your loyalty scheme or downloading your app and receiving the benefits should be fast, simple and compelling. Whilst traditional loyalty cards are used by 42% of shoppers, moving forwards you must focus on increasing participation in more engaging loyalty programmes – today smart phone apps are used by just 9.7% of consumers. Yet digital devices are both practical and personal. Most plastic cards sit in a drawer at home, but our phones are now with us all the time and always on, allowing you to send personalised offers to your customers via technologies such as Bluetooth beacons based on their recent location or activity.
Digital technology also enables you to deliver real-time data to your staff as well as your customers. Store associates can access inventory or pricing information in the aisle and take payment anywhere in-store. This provides the opportunity for your staff to engage effectively with your customers, enabling far more flexible and responsive multi-channel retailing. As a shopper’s experience becomes increasingly interactive, you can engage and persuade customers in real-time, maximising point of purchase conversion, whether that’s through sharing data with them on their phone, via a touch screen kiosk, or a sales assistant.
Ultimately, retailers must rethink their processes across all areas of business to ensure they retain and engage customers in the future. The ongoing pursuit of consumer loyalty will result in extraordinary levels of personalisation in the years ahead, with stores shaped to reflect customers’ needs and expectations. Forthcoming generations of digitally proficient shoppers will expect retailers to harness the latest technology to meet their demands. Store associates will be empowered by digitisation to become brand advocates able to build strong relationships with customers.
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