The digital star is brightest when the customer is at the heart of the connected retailing experience, and it is digital that provides the backbone for this to happen.
How bright a company’s digital star shines depends on how connected their sales and distribution channels are.
Research consistently shows that connected retailing results in improved commercial performance.
The following blog looks at why physical retail is not only evolving but is a critical part of the way customers want to shop and engage with a brand.
The digital star is undoubtedly shining!
We have never had convenience at this level before.
The customer is now in control and can access information to inform purchase decisions or overcome issues through a multitude of smart devices. Speed, convenience, choice, and being socially connected have all played their part in making digital retailing so compelling.
Physical retail has now begun the tough journey to reinvent itself in light of the changing shopping behaviour of customers and the need to be more operationally efficient.
No longer is the physical store the only place to get products and services from and no longer is it the most convenient or even the cheapest.
But how bright the digital star shines depends on which end of the telescope you are looking through…
If you want emotionally engaged customers who trust your brand, who want to touch, feel and speak to a person then I argue the digital star is not shining as bright as it may first seem – these are the strengths of physical retail.
Can the online shopping experience ever be anything more than functional and transactional?
Physical retail is critical
My hypothesis is physical retail is more critical than ever. It is evolving and moving away from being the sole way for companies to distribute their products and service.
Today, stores are places that are starting to emotionally engage customers through branded experiences designed to engage and educate by bringing products and services to life.
This all made possible by the store staff orchestrating the customer experience, which in turn builds trust, loyalty and higher commercial performance.
The real differentiator of physical retail is a customers’ ability to touch, taste and feel products – they can try them out, experiment and ask questions to someone, getting reassurance and guidance.
The digital channels are unable to compete against this, but the physical channels are also unable to offer the same levels of speed, convenience and choice.
The best of both worlds
For me, the answer is complicated and requires a merging of the best of physical retail and the best of digital retail. This is the basis for omnichannel retailing or what I refer to as ‘connected retailing’.
No longer is the store just a siloed till.
No longer is the digital channel separate to the rest of the organisation.
The digital channel and all of its capabilities is the backbone that all channels connect to. Blending the best of all channels will create the opportunity to design fantastic experiences that are centred on the customer’s needs and the insights this way of working generates.
In turn, this will result in better company performance, as each channel has access to the same information about the customer – stock, pricing, logistics, propositions, promotions and marketing, which translates into consistent, personalised and relevant experiences for customers regardless of channel.
To achieve this new way of doing business requires some fundamental building blocks that underpin what will become a new operating model:
- Set out a new vision: This is the starting point, along with clear goals and operating principles.
- Create a strategy with measurable targets in place: This will enable you to deliver and measure it.
- Create a clear communication plan and road map to secure buy-in from the entire workforce: Educating everyone why digitally transforming retail is critical to becoming ‘future ready’ and agile. You will ensure you are better equipped to tackle a more competitive landscape – where customers expect so much more.
Achieving this is connected retailing! The entire operating model changes, bringing the following benefits:
- The role of each channel is clearly defined to complement each other;
- Frontline staff are empowered with equal access to real-time data and new commission structures;
- Processes are more effective and efficient through automation;
- The customer experience is more innovative and engaging than ever before, building trust and loyalty.
This is how the digital star shines the brightest!