Anyone who has recently shopped or browsed on a tablet or smartphone knows that the retail experience is changing. And it's changing for both the consumer
and the retailer. Within a few years, the entire shopping experience is likely to be all about the consumer, from start to finish. Buying and returning merchandise will be different -- more
consumer-focused, more technology-enabled and just plain easier.
It is likely that stores will be physically altered. Gone will be the brick-and-mortar malls we know today. Instead, retail destinations may have limited merchandise, stocking only a few samples for customers who still want to touch and feel products. Stores could operate primarily using screen images and scanners to show, swipe and sell.
Why? Omnichannel shopping -- or shopping across multiple channels such as in-store, online, on TV, on a tablet, potentially at the same time -- has significant upside potential for consumers and retailers.
Consumers are actually spending more with their favorite multichannel retailers than at the stores with only brick-and-mortar locations. Our research shows that when consumers use multiple channels, they spend more.
According to our report, in the U.S., a surprising 56 percent of shoppers are spending more with multichannel retailers. That flies in the face of conventional wisdom that launching an online store steals sales from physical stores.
In addition, 50 percent of U.S. shoppers are social media users who research products, consult reviews, and even buy through social media. This past holiday season, 27 percent of smartphone users used their phone to purchase a product, according to the same report.
Increasingly, we are relying on mobile
technologies to access, research and shop -- creating more opportunities for consumers and new demands on retailers and their brands.
So what’s a retailer to do?
The winning retailers will take advantage of these technology shifts and turn business intelligence and data into actionable insight to grow and benefit the business strategy. The successful retailer will also build a true omni-channel operation that allows customers to interface through any channel of their preference on a 24/7 basis, anywhere, at any time.
Leading retailers will have a superior understanding of their consumer, catering to wider income ranges and increasingly diverse ethnic groups. These retailers will capitalize on data from service and loyalty programs, which will allow them to analyze shopper data and tailor product assortments, creating in-store experiences for differing demographic groups and individuals.
Imagine your favorite retailer greeting you at the door with coupons or customized pricing -- “You’ve bought these plaid, boy-shirts
before, do you need additional ones? As a loyal customer, we can offer them to you at a special price!”
In the future, retailers already will know your needs and your loyalty number without having to prompt you for it. No longer will you need to carry multiple loyalty cards or endure the frantic wallet search at the register. Look for the growth of alternative store formats, smaller footprints in urban areas and consumer experiences that know your buying habits better than you do.
What we don’t yet know is how this future shopping experience will feel.
Will the convenience of having whatever we want at our fingertips trump all else?
Will the personal shoppers who seem to know everything about us, our family, and our shopping and personal habits enhance the experience? Or will it freak us out?
Will the constant onslaught of coupons, deals, and limited-time offers (time offers in one-minute increments) induce us to spend more on what we don’t need?
Will we actually miss the time we spend with our kids and friends shopping at malls?
I think some might, but when I asked my 18-year-old son, if he’d miss it, he said:
“Going shopping is a hassle; anything that makes it faster is good for me!” Some things will never change.
What we do know is that technology-enabled shopping will certainly make for a more efficient and enhanced experience.