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GUEST COMMENT Are retailers making the most of their channels so they can give their customers the best possible experience?

Back 15 years ago it was believed online stores were a novelty that worked for only certain products. The thought of handing over big sums of money over the internet was both frightening and unbelievable. We now live in an era where buying a book, a cupcake and a car can all be done online in 35 minutes. With that, online has become a real threat to physical stores. Or so it seems.

Is online all we need now to ensure success in retail?

Some retailers such as Primark are doing incredibly well with just a store and no transactional site, while we all know there are some pure phenomenal players happy to stay just that. Some of these are slowly adding physical experiences to their mix, from pop-up to smaller stores.

Although I do believe more rather than fewer channels will always add increased revenue or value, the prerequisite is that these channels are all run with excellence.

Many stores, however, have stood still in time. When once the customer was king and known by name and preferences, we now can spend hours under the radar in a store without any communication or worse, being completely ignored.

And I wonder, while we live in a time where texting our neighbours is preferred to vocal contact, how would we feel if we for once were recognised and acknowledged in a store where we have already spent a small fortune over the years?

Although we talk about the store of the future, essential elements of store retail seem stuck in time, such as queueing to pay, endless waiting for products in stockrooms and a personal bugbear: the central place mannequins still take in fashion retail.

Thankfully the presence of online stores also highlights the qualities that make high street stores so special and unique — human connection, tactile experiences and product curation. With online stores being able to cover large amounts of inventory through use of great filters, stores are now freed from the need to display endless aisles of inventory.

Smaller footprint showrooms can present products as part of an aspirational lifestyle, educating shoppers on the best use of these products and guiding them through a pleasant experience in line with their lifestyle and needs. Tesco recently announced a new layout for one of their trial stores, locating the pizzas next to the salads as it has become clear through careful observation that people buy these often together.

It’s easy to find fault in stores now that the high street is so clearly reflecting the problems we are facing. However, we equally have to guard against complacency and lethargy in the online channel. Satisfied with ticking the box of owning a transactional website with some smart add-ons can quickly make the store history repeat itself online.

Recent increased scrutiny of the two main marketing channels Google and Facebook are a wake-up call to look at a more holistic marketing model, preferably using channels that we own ourselves.
We pay and work hard to get traffic to our sites but then are happy to see as much as 95% leave without any benefits to us.

For long we have talked about using data for personalisation but how relevant are most emails?

Legacy systems can’t remain the eternal excuse nor can head counts. A good agency should and will be able to crack that code and also make themselves part of the client’s team. Some smart companies are doing exactly this and with great results. BounceX, with their behavioural marketing platform, has paved the way for brands to finally have access to a new revenue channel. They recently shared that they became within one month the third highest revenue channel for a global retail client.
To make online as good as it can be we all have a part to play.

The organisations that will not only survive, but thrive, in this fast-changing and exciting environment are those that embrace excellence and vision in all the channels they use.

They must innovate fast, and innovate not just to innovate, but rather to drive undeniable performance.

Author: Gracia Amico member of Retail Advisory Board at BounceX 

Image credit: Fotolia

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