Retail Review | Australian Retailers Association

A digital-first store critical to driving stronger connections with customers

It’s not only the store format that will change, but also the technology within the store. To improve the customer experience, retailers need to embrace a range of technologies such as smart digital shelves, digital fact tags, and QR codes – enabling consumers to learn more about a specific product through the use of their mobile device.

As shoppers increasingly use their mobile devices in-store, retailers can leverage artificial intelligence (AI) powered personalisation to drive in-person sales. For example, customers no longer want a generic home page experience, they expect retailers to know what they want and present them with unique and relevant recommendations online, which enables them to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for in-store.

Furthermore, by launching or upgrading existing consumer apps for mobile, retailers can make the shopping experience more convenient and engaging with interactive wayfinding capabilities to identify where products are in-store and their availability, as well as sending real time push notifications alerting the shopper to store-driven promotions for products that are of interest to them. The app also provides a means to drive customers to join a loyalty program, with shoppers willing to download an app and check into a store to earn points. Salesforce reported that, 69 percent of shoppers say that being part of a loyalty program makes them more likely to shop with a brand.

As the role of in-store staff evolves retailers need to upskill in digital

If in-store staff are to meet today’s customer expectations for connected experiences across in-person and online, they will need a unified view of their customer data. According to our research, in-store staff log into an average of 15 systems on a daily basis to do their job. By having a central source for all of their data, retailers can better understand how a consumer is engaging with the brand before they step into a store. It’s never been more important to have quick access to a shopper’s order history with customers no longer willing to accept time-intensive experiences where staff cannot make tailored recommendations to meaningfully up-sell or cross-sell.

Furthermore, as the store adapts to new shopper needs and expectations, so will the responsibilities of in-store staff. During pandemic-induced store closures, staff took on the task of virtual styling, online customer service and online order fulfilment while social media-savvy associates became their retailer’s best brand ambassadors. With these responsibilities likely to remain, retailers need to provide their staff with access to self-learning tools like Trailhead to get them up to speed to manage service and sales across all digital channels.

Every store will become a fulfilment and distribution centre

To deliver on customer expectations for convenient and seamless experiences, retailers were quick to implement new online fulfilment capabilities at the start of the pandemic including click and collect, pick up curbside, and partnerships with third-party delivery providers.

Today’s shoppers have grown accustomed to these store-based fulfilment options with 65 percent of shoppers purchasing a product online and picking it up in the store in 2021. These capabilities will likely become standard features for stores in the year ahead.

By leveraging out-of-the-box capabilities, retailers can better connect the online and in-store experience, unlocking store inventory to be sold and quickly and efficiently turn every store into a fulfilment and distribution centre.

The future of bricks-and-mortar

The store has a long history of evolution to meet new customer expectations, and this is the start of a new journey to blend in-person and digital experiences. While the implementation of store-based fulfilment was prioritised due to the pandemic, more change is coming to the store, including diversity in store formats to meet different shopping needs for convenience, discovery, and service. The interior of the store will see more technology implemented and the in-store shopping experience will be enhanced by the retailer’s mobile app. As the store evolves, the role of the store associate will evolve in tandem. And all of these changes will result in more data that retailers can leverage to enhance their customer experience. To be successful in this new era, retail leaders need to leverage new digital capabilities to create the experiences that today’s customers expect.

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