The past year has dramatically altered the retail landscape. With high streets closed for business and retailers no longer able to rely on footfall for their main source of income, the digital sphere has exploded.
Customers from all walks of life are now comfortable shopping online and as a result, the use of connected retail holds more potential than ever.
With consumer expectations changing and the digital transformation likely to be a long-term one, retail businesses must be well prepared to provide a shopping experience across multiple channels. This will put them in good stead as we head into the new normal.
Today’s consumers are different
The advent of internet shopping, price-comparison search engines, online coupons, and cashback deals have all led to the evolution of consumer demand and purchase decision making. Customers are now tech-savvy, hungry for deals, and spend extra time researching products and services before committing to making a purchase. As such, they drive both physical and digital sales, so businesses should be utilising connected retail to target them.
This is because their expectations centre around interactive and connected services that maintain a simple and seamless payment process. They want to be able to mix online and in-store purchases with ease, for example, in-store pick-ups should be straight forward and return policies should be clear and transparent.
Why go omnichannel?
At first glance, such demands may seem tricky to cater to, but omnichannel shoppers are proven to deliver a higher value track record when compared to other shoppers. Those that have not yet ventured into the world of e-commerce and connected retail should be aware of the potential that is on offer.
Going online enables you to reach a much wider range of customers from different demographics and provides you with new ways to target individuals, from tailored ads to special occasion coupons. This personalised approach to their online experience can help to drive sales and generate new or returning customers. It also gives you access to a whole host of new data about your customer base, such as their shopping habits and trends, allowing you to up your marketing efforts and generate sales more effectively.
Now more than ever, generating revenue is crucial, and e-commerce opens up the capacity to vastly expand your product offering, which is key as most omnichannel shoppers now expect a greater range of options. It’s not just increasing stock options that can achieve a healthier profit margin, as an integrated retail experience will allow you to utilise central warehouses located outside of cities where real estate can be less costly and storage space is plentiful.
When it comes to improving the customer experience, having a digital presence is a must as it enables you to maintain direct communication with customers via social media platforms. According to research by Facebook, more than 80% of people use Instagram to research their potential purchases and discover new trends and products. Developing lines of communication with them in this way will create greater brand loyalty, while also enabling you to respond to customers’ queries much more quickly.
Connected retail isn’t without its challenges
While e-commerce offers many important advantages to retailers, they must also protect themselves against the risks that are inherent in the digital space, such as online fraud, lower authorisation rates and IT issues. It’s important to offer proper online channels to support customers should any issues or queries arise, as loyal customers can be quickly lost and complaints filed.
A reliable omnichannel solution provider can help mitigate such risks and teach retailers how to effectively design a registration flow and checkout experience that will better retain paying customers and limit fraudulent activity.
Having the right partners is essential
When choosing an omnichannel provider, you should find one that can also offer in-store solutions that provide a unified, efficient, and safe payment flow that immerses and connects the buyer and seller during the payment process. It should offer hardware and software-based solutions that reach a greater range of customers and boost conversion. Utilising this to bridge the gap between online and physical stores by introducing digital kiosks, touch screens, and virtual reality (VR) experiences to the point of sale (POS) will transform your physical store into a unique and exciting shopping experience that will keep customers engaged.
Being connected to the right network is integral to the success of retail brands, as they need access to reliable and tailored acquiring services. The right partner will enable you to integrate with a network of global acquirers and give you the capacity to implement smart routing and switching to effectively optimise authorisation levels, all under the one roof.
Dynamic currency conversion capabilities offered by such companies will also enable you to spread your wings and reach new locations around the world. Yet, this also means having payment methods that are relevant to customers in different regions as neglecting to offer, for example, BLIK in Poland, Sofort in Germany or iDEAL in the Netherlands can be a deal-breaker causing people to drop sales and look elsewhere.
Thus, your solution provider should be one that has a global presence and expert knowledge of preferred payment methods in different markets around the world. That way, they can guide you as you penetrate different markets and provide detailed feedback and support in response to your business’ performance across the globe.
When all these conditions are met, you will be able to offer a seamless, secure and tailored omnichannel experience to your customers, that will continue to drive sales in the new normal.
About the author
Chris Burnside is the account manager for specialty retail, UK & Nordics global sales & verticals at Worldline.
In a career spanning over 20 years, Chris has a proven track-record of providing high levels of customer service and in developing successful partnerships with customers across all industry verticals.
Chris has worked in technology since graduating. She has extensive experience working on digital transformation projects and ensuring that customers get the most out of their technology investments.