In the past few years, the retail industry has undergone a massive transformation driven by digital technology innovations that are fundamentally changing the way consumers interact with retailers and brands. Decreasing footfalls, new online-only competitors and profound changes in customer preferences are increasingly buffeting the industry and posing it on a knife’s edge. Retailers are combating the online revolution not only to get people into their stores, but to drive them to purchase, as well.
The shift is pushing retailers to review and transform their traditional business approaches going forward. They are increasingly adapting to the new consumer demand-driven shopping paradigm and different segments (luxury, apparel, mass merchandisers, etc.) are developing. But as they strive to catch up with the trend, retailers must realize that retailing in the digital age doesn’t mean introducing “digital” to the physical space. Instead, it means redefining one’s entire business around operating in a digital world.
Brands must follow the customer’s journey across touchpoints — only some of which will include digital tools at all. A touchpoint might be defined by a smile or the feel of a linen shirt. A mirror image of you dressed in the new style of the iconic Burberry trench coat. The smell of a store as you enter. Operating in a digital world requires integrating the physical and digital, hand in hand.
So, how do retailers go about defining the best combination of physical and digital for their brand? Here are the five overarching rules for retailers to keep in mind when designing the future of their retail experience:
1. Retailers must become more flexible, immersive and fit for purpose
Digital extensions — a great interactive kiosk, mobile app or sales associate tool — are no longer enough. Retail brands must reimagine their business in the age of the customer. Retailing in the digital age should be more flexible than in the past. This means omni-channel and visibility; click and collect; mobile ordering; ship-to-home; and all the permutations.
2. Think experience-led and mobile first: Mobile as the gateway to the brand
For most retailers, smartphones are now gateways to the brand. Mobile is how they start and sustain customer relationships and is now a primary touchpoint for retailers. It is becoming an essential channel pre-visit, in the store (with growing expectations for image search, wayfinding, mobile payments and voice-based search functions) and post-visit. Increasingly, both retailers and mobile providers are entering the mobile payment space, with 60 percent of omni-channel retailers predicted to launch customer mobile payment initiatives by 2018.