Omnichannel demands shifting in-store expectations

Bricks-and-mortar stores remain a key link in the omnichannel chain for UK shoppers, a new report from ShopperTrak, a global retail insight provider, suggests.

Original research in the 'Redesigning Retail: What Does The Future Of Physical Retail Look Like?' report reveals that, while over half 55% of consumers found online shopping to be more tailored, 37% still shop in bricks-and-mortar outlets just as much as two years ago, demonstrating the store remains a key touchpoint in the path to purchase.

However, despite retailers' efforts to integrate stores into the omnichannel experience and create connected encounters that seamlessly blend the on- and off-line environments, the report highlighted five key areas where UK shoppers' expectations exceeded what physical retail currently offers and outlined how these omnichannel consumers' demands would shift in 2017.

Convenience: Speed of service is a key area where consumers felt the store could improve; over a third (34%) had abandoned an in-store purchase due to long queues. Shoppers now expect more progressive solutions that eliminate the need to queue, demonstrating the need for retailers to be able to analyse how consumers move around the store and identify any hot-spots, as well as a optimising the staff:customer ratio during peak hours. 28% said they want 'scan and shop' mobile apps to automatically add items to baskets as they move around the store, while almost a third (29%) said they want virtual queueing tickets so they wouldn't have to stand in line.

Transparent proposition: Almost two fifths (38%) felt stores should have clearer pricing and promotional information. Consumers now expect even more cross-channel information to be available at the shelf edge; 59% want electronic shelf labels (ESLs) and QR codes to allow more transparency between off- and on-line prices and real-time stock visibility.

Digitalised customer service: 22% of UK shoppers want staff to be better skilled, enabling them to offer ecommerce style services in the store, such as access to online reviews and being able to carrying out real-time stock checks if an item isn't available via tablet devices or inventory smart tags. A further 27% would like sales associates to be equipped with tablet devices to bring digital capabilities to the shop floor. This highlights the importance for retailers to have a real-time single stock view in-store, empowering store staff with endless aisle capabilities, with access to live stock availability, in whichever channel it may be, in order to meet the customer's needs.

Exploration over transaction: Consumers now use the store as a 'brand engagement vehicle' rather than a transactional outlet. Half (50%) use physical shops to browse products and familiarise themselves with a brand, even if they go on to buy an item in another channel, demonstrating the value the role of the store plays in consumers being able to physically engage with the brand and product before they make a purchase.

Individual value: Accustomed to receiving highly personalised experiences online, shoppers now expect the same tailored encounters in the physical retail environment when it comes to both service and offers. 43% want personalised discounts at the till if they are a loyal customer, while 17% would visit a store more if they received a personalised incentive, such as a preview collection or product launch.

"Now more than ever, retailers must seek ways to bring digital into the physical space to create richer, more connected encounters. However, in order to truly understand where to direct digital investment, retail businesses must have a thorough understanding of their bricks-and-mortar visitors – not just those who convert, but those who enter the store and leave empty handed, too," said Steve Richardson, UK and MEA Director at ShopperTrak.

"Bricks-and-mortar is the place where retailers now have the greatest opportunity to reshape the shopper experience. The key to this will lie in capturing and leveraging store data insights to facilitate the change in store operations to drive an enhanced customer experience," he concluded.

Survey of 5,000 European consumers from UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, conducted by Morar on behalf of ShopperTrak.

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