When I was growing up the major excitement of my week was being able to go shopping in town on a Saturday afternoon.
It was the ‘done thing’ at the time and I guess it was more about the social side than the actual task of buying something new.
I sometimes feel sorry for the youth of today who no longer get to enjoy this rite of passage.
Shops and shopping seemed so simple back in my heyday of the 1990s. We all went to the same ones — Fresh Garbage, Virgin Megastores or the Diesel shop; got help from the shop assistants, tried on or listened to what we liked from the shelves, bought our items and went home on the bus laden with bags.
Then the internet arrived and everything changed.
Now we are shopping on the bus, but this time purchasing products through our mobile devices.
The rise of online shopping
In 1991 Tim Berners Lee made the first internet software available, by 1995 Amazon and eBay were launched and although we had yet to realise it shopping as we knew it changed forever.
The emergence of the ‘always on’ consumer was born and modern retailing was only one click away.
What makes online shopping so popular is predominately the convenience, more competitive pricing and the scope of what is available.
With this migration online, more established retailers had to find their way through this unfamiliar environment.
When Amazon launched, less than 1% of people were using the internet. 16 years later the majority UK consumers are buying online. Now our shopping habits have changed so much that in certain markets the internet has become the preferred channel for many of us and the growth has been staggering.
Change is accelerating even further as mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets — which in fact may overtake other channels — allow us to shop online wherever and whenever we fancy with just a few taps of the screen.
The new generation of shoppers that has emerged do not purchase anything without meeting a host of digital touch points along the way. This new online breed is sometimes referred to as ‘digital natives’, and reaching them successfully requires integrating traditional with a strong digital offering.
Despite this, research by Wipro Digital has found that a third of consumers continue to research products in-store, suggesting that the face-to-face store experience is still a valued part of the overall shopping experience.
This is music to the ears of bricks and mortar retailers and something they can capitalise on if they combine this desire for customers to achieve a better experience with their ability to use the digital means available to them. According to Wipro Digital’s global head, Avinash Rao, the main ways for retailers to do this are:
- Focus on understanding each step of the customer journey. This means providing a consistent and relevant experience every time the customer interacts with the brand, regardless of the channel or platform. By creating a positive experience at each point, brand loyalty — something often lacking with online retailing — can be achieved.
- Combine offline and online promotional offers. For example, unique codes that are only available in-store, but then redeemable online at a later date should a purchase not wish to be made on that day.
- Use Click and Collect. This is used already in many larger stores. It allows a retailer to offer an added customer service as it removes the hassle of returns should a product not be suitable when received.
Adapt and collaborate
In conclusion, to achieve a successful customer journey, a retailer needs to use the traditional selling techniques that worked in the past, but adapt them to suit the modern consumer.
And by throwing technology into the mix, they should be able to create a collaborative approach that combines various channels to create a positive customer journey and ultimately loyalty to their individual brand.