Find out more
Look at the news over the past few weeks and it’s a tale of two cities. One city made up of the retailers who are unfortunately having to announce the prospect of closure after poor sales and tumbling profits. The other, the unlikely climber rising from the swell of ill-fated news to announce rising sales, namely JD Sports who announced that profits were up a huge 26% across the past year.
For other retailers in the industry, this disparity in fate has the potential to confound. How can the disparity be explained? Although the sheer notion of trying to explain this prompts even more questions and doubts. Using the sweeping brush of ‘changing customer demands’ seems all too general, yet this is arguably the essence of why retailers are facing an uncertain market.
The way consumers shop has been changing for years. We now want goods and services whenever and wherever, and the traditional high-street store model just can’t survive on its own. The notion of going into a shop and only being able to access the items in that physical store at that day and time just isn’t enough to satisfy customers and keep them coming back. It’s not an experience, and it certainly isn’t where the survival of the high-street lies.
Many retailers are already looking beyond the traditional model by offering things such as tablets in-store to access online reviews and stock checks. That is a key facet of an omnichannel approach to retail; marketing across various platforms, especially digital ones, enables marketers to access the insight to help best understand the customer. For example, are the majority of customers within a certain age bracket buying items in-store on the tablets as opposed to online at home? If so, retailers could provide offers when they buy in-store to encourage recurring visits to the physical store.
Yet this doesn’t negate the need and desire for the bricks and mortar store altogether. In fact a survey from Omnico finds 70% of shoppers aged under 35 would like to see store hours extended. But by bringing together the physical store and ensuring the online platform is at quite literally an arms (or fingers) length away, via a tablet or different mobile point of sale, the store can act as a showroom whilst the online portal provides an additional touch point.
Essentially, offline and online channels can’t be viewed in isolation. According to a study by Google, 72% of consumers visit a shop to check out a product, with plans to purchase online. For retailers it’s about knowing how to link these together to guide the consumer through an overall journey to purchase. The first step is to take action when it comes to understanding who the audiences are, how they’re interacting with the brand, what areas of the brand can deliver value to them, and then evaluating where their brand stands in light of this. Brands that fail to do so, or are too late to take action, are the ones who will likely be most susceptible to losing customers to competitors and risk tumbling sales.
Many retailers want to know how investments into omnichannel are going to pay off in the form of customer loyalty and thus, sales. Attempts to address this must lie in the prioritisation of the customer. From there, retailers are in a better position to be able to incite change. For example, do their customers mainly care about getting a good deal on the product/service you are offering? If so, offering personalised discounts is one way retailers are using omnichannel to directly target loyalty.
Another way retailers are addressing this is by offering personalised and location-based offers too, which can be a powerful way to close the online/offline loop. Whilst there are still questions and concerns about how effective this is in practice, it’s a platform that retailers are curious about. This indicates how the concept of omnichannel and personalised sales tactics are driving retailers and consumers alike to think about what the future of retail will look like.
The high street isn’t dead. Retailers do however need to be reminded that it is often too little too late when it comes to catching up with changing customer demands. An integrated approach to omnichannel, marketing and fundamental strategy is the key to staying alive and keeping the UK high street a physical entity. It’s not too late and the UK market is up for grabs, if only retailers seek to understand where their audiences desires and needs lie.