The press is perpetually peppered with save the highstreet articles – but why even attempt this if consumer habits are changing and there is a decreasing demand for physical shops?
Mark Bollard, Chief Executive of Marks and Spencers recently said that ‘online has replaced Marble Arch as our flagship store’. Google’s Shopper Marketing Council recently published findings that 79% of smartphone owners are smartphone shoppers, and also reported that mobile shoppers buy more. The question therefore is: how can we leverage technology to revitalise the store to provide a compelling and connected retail experience? To progress profitably, here are the 6 C’s that retailers need to consider when formulating their digital strategy:
Forrester predicts that by 2016 connected retail will influence 44% of sales This has huge potential to streamline operations behind the scenes, as well as enabling interactions between brands and consumers to be meaningful rather than purely transactional.
The limitations of the high street are no longer confined to bricks and mortar – it’s more about clicks and mortar. Retailers must consider the benefits of online and offline to enable consumers to interact at their own convenience, and then stores will never be closed. 43% of shoppers now use mobile phones while on the move, and retailers have an opportunity to use those smartphones to make the in-store experience more convenient and engaging through new interactions, tools and purchase paths.
You only have to look at bustling town centres full of families and friends to see that shopping is an intrinsically social activity. Digital opens up a channel for a dialogue between the retailer and the consumer, and also for a more social experience between shoppers.
It’s less about retail and more about me-tail The more retailers understand about each individual the better they can serve their needs. Merchants must get to grips with how customers use digital in their daily lives. Capturing and leveraging data enables retailers to tailor reward mechanisms, deliver customised content, and advertise relevant deals directly into the hands of their audience.
Once you’ve seen one shopping centre you’ve seen a mall (sorry). Shops should be much more than sales channels – they can be microcosms of the brand itself. Which leads us nicely onto…
The most powerful sales tool at our disposal is the imagination of the consumer. Stores are valuable real estate and there is no reason to limit the capacity for revenue and recognition between 9am and 5pm. Design the shop front of the future, or perhaps consider geolocation, hyperlocal and responsive interactions. Retail is detail, so it’s time to go back to basics and consider every sensory type of information that online alone simply cannot deliver. When introducing scent into their stores, Nike discovered that intention to purchase increased by 80%.
But what do the experts think?
Jonathan is CEO at Holition; an award-winning creative studio specializing in premium 3D digital experiences for luxury retail, with clients including Selfridges, Hugo Boss, DeBeers, Swatch, Richemont, and Gucci Group. It is easy to forget that retail brands were initially so distrustful of digital in general, seeing it as a threat to long established bricks and mortar stores, but initially through e-commerce and then via a plethora of new disruptive channels, most of whom can not be accessed and influenced by a brand’s marketeers, such as social media, blogs and so on, retailers are having to quickly learn that it is extremely difficult to own and control the sales channels of the future in the way they used to only a year or so ago. This trend can only continue to intensify in the future, with consumers holding far more power, influencing friends and associates, generating traffic to retail sites via new routes and channels other than directly to a brands url.
Oisin is a technology speaker, writer and thought leader alongside his role as Senior Market Development Manager at OpenMarket; a global mobile transaction hub offering a comprehensive set of payments, messaging and emerging services to enterprises, merchants and developers. I think the future of retail depends a lot on the level of trust consumers have in technology companies. Innovation in the retail sector of the future depends on winning back the hearts and minds of consumers, and convincing them that their data will not be misused or shared without their consent. A tall order given the recent, massive disclosures of data abuse. I like Gerd Leonard’s suggestion of a global Digital Bill of Rights, something along these lines might be necessary to really facilitate the next wave of technological innovation in retail for connected consumers. — Whatever the approach, it’s safe to say that only those that continue to view digital as a threat are threatened.
With thanks to Oisin, and Jonathan for their contributions.