Home » Future of Retail and E-Commerce » Digital commerce: how to apply online shopping benefits to in-store experiences

Ben Miller

Director of Original Content, Shoptalk

As online retail shapes customer expectations of shopping in-store, how can physical shops evolve?

Creating a digital throughline

In most developed economies, 70% to 80% of all retail continues to take place in physical shops. Many observers now recognise a ‘Covid Bump’ in ecommerce, where necessity drove more people to buy online — only for old behaviours to have returned as restrictions lifted.

Yet, there are fewer and fewer shoppers who don’t shop online at all; approximately less than 20% in leading retail markets. This is shaping expectations of physical shops, and progressive retailers are working to create a throughline of digital experience from their websites to their physical stores. It’s so-called ‘unified commerce.’

Meeting online expectations

The first expectation is for convenience. Shoppers are used to, and increasingly demanding, payment and checkout that’s as easy as making one click. They are less tolerant of waiting in lines and of products being out-of-stock.

This is leading retailers to invest in a wide range of technologies designed to reduce shopper friction, to eliminate pain points in a shopper’s journey. Much investment has focused on self-checkout or checkout-free solutions utilising RFID and computer vision technologies. The imperative for retailers is clear: to keep making life easier for their shoppers. The second expectation is a personalised shopping experience.

Scanning a loyalty card at checkout is too late to provide a personalised experience while they shop.

Providing a personalised experience

How can retailers deliver a continuous shopping experience, one that’s consistent across online and physical stores? Or even better, one that picks up your shopping journey as you switch from one channel to the next — without interruption?

It’s been a key topic of discussion at our American and European Shoptalk shows this year and remains top-of-mind for our community of retail and brand leaders and technology innovators who will join us again in 2024.

We’ve identified three key stages to unlock personalisation in physical stores. The first is having the data on any individual’s shopping history, and loyalty mechanics provide the best way to capture this in-store.

The second stage is trickier; being able to identify a shopper as they enter, not exit. Scanning a loyalty card at checkout is too late to provide a personalised experience while they shop, so retailers are trialling a range of technologies that encourage shoppers to identify themselves on entry; for example, using an app as they shop or unlocking tools like self-scan or ‘Smart Carts.’ The final stage is then delivering a valuable personal service.

Adding customer value

Imagine approaching the meat counter in your favourite supermarket and the butcher being able to greet you by name; with your purchase history already in front of them to be able to recommend offers on your favourite products or make suggestions of new items to try — just like you are used to online.

However, retailers must be more cautious about interrupting an in-person shopping trip with personalised and targeted adverts. The tech stack to enable this is being developed as retail media networks stretch from online into stores. Caution to balance the marketing revenue and customer influencing opportunities with shopper support and adoption is key.

Retailers always win when they focus on their customers — when they prioritise meeting their needs and exceeding their expectations. The level of digital influencing will continue to grow, and Shoptalk looks forward to helping retailers and brands unlock this opportunity.

For more information on the world’s leading retail events visit www.shoptalk.com

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