Retail today is retail without boundaries. It’s the acknowledgement that retail exists everywhere - not just where the purchase occurs.
Whether on the job, at home, out with friends, on your commute, watching tv, or overhearing a stranger’s conversation in Starbucks...messages are constant, and information absorption occurs on subconscious levels. Retail without Boundaries is a thought process that transcends conventional ways of thinking, challenges people to consider retail beyond brick and mortar and e-commerce, and embraces an ever-changing landscape.
This retail revolution is driven by the evolution of the modern-day consumer.
As consumers become more and more connected, so too does retail. Retailers and brand marketers grapple to follow trends. Shoppers go on download frenzies hoping more store apps = more money saved. Kids try to explain to their parents what a #hashtag is and why the local hardware store is asking them to upload a picture of their new hammer with #diyday.
Without realizing it, the majority of consumers have become what is known as omnichannel customers. In the simplest definition, omnichannel customers are people who use a combination of channels prior to making a purchase, such as a retailer’s website, social media, sponsored content, magazine articles, and/ or in-store experience. Unlike other types of customers, omnichannel shoppers use these channels in conjunction with one another, rather than in opposition. They may start, pause, continue, or return to a single shopping journey via multiple platforms, rather than solely relying on one or the other.
In 2016, the Harvard Business Review conducted a large study polling 46,000 individuals on their shopping behaviors. It was found that 73% of shoppers reported using multiple channels, compared to 20% store-only and 7% online-only, prior to making a purchase. Additionally, omnichannel customers reported spending an average of 4% more in-store, and 10% more online, than single-channel customers on every shopping trip.
It’s no secret this growing demographic of shoppers is valuable, and something important to remember is that the omnichannel experience is not linear. It is intuitive, interdependent, often simultaneous, and requires retail marketing strategies that are customized and personalized to each shopper.
In response to this, marketers and advertisers have begun to adopt “omnichannel marketing” practices.
Omnichannel marketing is a concept in which marketers attempt to create seamless shopping experiences by building campaigns that are cohesive, integrated, and interactive with one another across all channels.
Jason Bloomberg of Forbes wrote in an article that omnichannel marketing “heralds an interconnectedness among touchpoints that from the perspective of the consumer, blurs the distinction among channels.”
Omnichannel marketing is more than one consumer ordering online, and another preferring to purchase in person. It’s the realization that the majority of shoppers take their technology with them, and use their devices to arm themselves with information, comparison shop, price check, and scan for coupons site on scene, fully expecting the in-store experience to supplement and enhance what they’ve already come to expect.
Rather than contributing to channel conflict (i.e. in-store sales vs. online sales), omnichannel consumers seem to approach this type of retail as as a “single, technology-enabled channel that brings together all touchpoints.”
This information matters to store planners, visual merchandisers, and retail design teams because physical, brick
and mortar, in-store experiences still account for nearly 90% of total purchases. They also account for a substantial amount of weight when influencing a consumer’s final purchasing decision. A study released by McKinsey&Company notes that:
“Consumers want to look at a product in action and are highly influenced by the visual dimension: up to 40 percent of them change their minds because of something they see, learn, or do at this point—say, packaging, placement, or interactions with salespeople.”
Having the ability to thoughtfully craft retail space that is equipped to enhance what is already known is key.
If retail exists everywhere, then it’s true “home” can still be thought as a physical location. And like any traveler, that home will eventually become filled with the artifacts and mementos of journeys trekked. The home becomes a place to show off all of the pieces; it provides a platform to tell a complete story.
Here are 5 things retailers and brand marketers can do to ensure their retail programs are designed for today's landscape and the savvy customers who travel it:
Remember, it takes a village to
create great retail experiences.
You know what one of the biggest pitfalls to planning is? Internal silos. Eliminate the potential for tunnel-vision by incorporating input from the people who know your customer best during your planning sessions. Include those who have direct contact with your customers on a daily basis. Check in with your sales, service, and IT/tech teams. They hear consumers’ pain points on a daily basis, know what the competition is up to, can identify potential bottlenecks in the path to purchase, and see areas of opportunity that marketing teams can miss. Make sure there is cohesion and clarity among your marketing counterparts (digital, web, email, social, etc.), so customers can enter storied spaces that are already familiar to them or can be continued upon exiting your store.
Really, really know your customer...
and their unique touch points.
Don’t only focus on what general statistics and data tell you about your customers’ behaviors - find out for yourself! 65% of your shoppers may be Millennials but according to your sales reports and research you’ve read, 30% of them have purchasing patterns more consistent with that of Boomers. Why? Your best success will come from looking at your shoppers under the microscope of your own retail’s ecosystem. It’s great if you have 13 channels available for your shoppers’ convenience, but if only four truly convert, what’s the point? Think about what your customers need at each and every point of interaction, and determine a way to optimize the experience at every step. Work with a retail partner who knows how to uncover this information and uses it to create more robust, yet relevant, in-store and online shopping experiences.
Avoid channel conflict.
Once you know your customer, their unique touch points, and which channels are most relevant to them, find a way for these channels to seamlessly work with, rather than divisively against, one another. Channels aren’t in silos anymore either. Use digital counterparts to strategically enhance the overall experience, and vice versa.
Do not make your customers start
their shopping experience over at each
and every touchpoint/channel.
Life is hectic and there are many distractions. In continuation of point #3, shoppers also need the ability to start, pause, start again, and complete their path to purchase wherever the motivation finds them. If your customer cannot find the exact size or model at your brick and mortar location, make sure you provide a physical conduit for them to satisfy their need via your website or other portal. If the motivation to buy hits them on their daily commute or lunch break, but some in-store validation is still needed, by all means provide the shopper with the ability to modify their selection in-store. Leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI) so shoppers can be reminded of what they already did and still need to do as they travel their path to purchase.
Strike while the iron is hot.
Brick and mortar will never die, but it will continue to transition and evolve alongside the customer’s path to purchase. Understanding that journey is half the battle. The other half is developing a smart retail strategy that makes sense to the technologically savvy, option-hungry, well-informed shopper. Don’t wait to see how the industry continues to unfold, start implementing these strategies now. Learn with your customer. Adapt to their needs. Remain open and flexible. Derive inspiration from their experiences. Doing this will keep your retail relevant and ensure they have the tools necessary to make confident buying decisions no matter where they engage with your brand.