When it comes to in-store shopping during the holiday season, opinions tend to be mixed. PwC's “Retailers and the Age of Disruption” survey found that while 68 percent of respondents intentionally browse products in-store before purchasing them online, 73 percent said they browse online and then purchase the products in-store. Consumers can’t decide which channel to buy in, so why shouldn’t retailers help make the decision for them? The following outlines three steps retailers should consider to create a buy, not browse, in-store environment.
Step 1: Invest in a Digital Core
The first step in creating an environment that entices shoppers to buy is to invest in a digital core — an end-to-end IT infrastructure that helps brands create a singular experience across channels. This integrated system removes silos to provide retailers with real-time visibility. Brands can manage wholesale, retail and manufacturing processes in one place, easily tracking inventory and the location of products. Even within each set of processes, a digital core eliminates departmental digital islands. Brands can also coordinate and deploy resources along the supply chain journey to be more efficient, cultivating meaningful data at the same time. During the holiday season, store associates can easily maintain inventory and be prepared to find a specific item of interest, online or in-store, at any time.
A digital core can also integrate data from each consumer touchpoint across sales, customer service, commerce and more into a single consolidated system. By connecting these siloed departments, brands can derive insight from each step of the consumer journey to prevent a disjointed experience and deliver personalized messaging. When a consumer enters a store, brands will be armed with the right data and background on each shopper to assist them in the best possible way.
Step 2: Digitally Train Employees
Success in the holiday season is dependent on customer service, and to do it well, brands need up-to-date training practices. In today’s omnichannel environment, retail associates should be connected to online resources to easily guide consumers through their purchase journey. By training employees to use a mobile app to execute core merchandising and customer service functions in-store, associates can answer any question at any time. They can find items across channels, find a consumer’s purchase history, recommend items based on out-of-stock items, and more.
One brand successfully using advanced technologies to help store associates guide the buyer along their journey is cosmetics company ULTA. ULTA’s digital core ensures consumers and associates have access to data, and can use the same set of data at any time. ULTA has implemented several in-store mobile solutions that have reduced back-office work, allowing associates to spend more time helping consumers, offering advice and deepening relationships. ULTA’s employees have real-time inventory visibility, giving them the ability to instantly check if products are somewhere in their store, in a nearby store, or when new inventory will arrive.
Step 3: Create an Experience
While the future of retail might look like in-store assistants and smart shelves, to make the shopping experience more enticing this holiday season brands must create personal experiences. Shoe brand Aldo does a great job enhancing the consumer experience by creating a true omnichannel environment each time a shopper enters a store. Using IoT and mobile technology, Aldo created an interactive and integrated store touchpoint that links to a mobile app. This new consumer experience includes product wish lists, high-resolution product images and descriptions, and social media sharing. By offering an adaptive consumer experience, Aldo is providing high levels of engagement to shoppers, resulting in an increase in sales of 20 percent year-over-year.
Consumers continue to demonstrate their preference for making purchases through a variety of channels, including in-store, online, click and collect, and more. By investing in technology that can make each experience unique, shoppers will be more willing to buy once they walk into your store.
Lori Mitchell-Keller is the global general manager, consumer industries at SAP, a software and technology solutions provider.
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