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Retail in 2014: Linked in: the store and mobile

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The latest in our New Year series of features assessing the shape of retail in 2014 looks at the rise and rise of mobile commerce, and how that will tie in to the store. Our experts say that retailers with stores must look hard at how they operate within the brand and within the omnichannel experience.

Focus on the brand

The store is no longer just about products, but also the brand. Companies that approach eCommerce with an omnichannel mindset are better able to understand their customer’s needs and preferences and how best to communicate with them. Each time a retailer engages with a customer, regardless of channel, new information can be gathered on product, payment, brand and preferences. In order to be useful, this information must be centralised, so retailers can deliver a more personalized shopping experience. This can best be achieved by creating a consistent view of the customer across all channels.

“The proliferation of mobile devices has changed the shopping engagement paradigm forever. A recent report from Forrester Research predicts that by 2017 the Web will influence half of all retail purchases in some way through features like price checks, ratings and reviews. As more shoppers are likely to visit an ecommerce website prior to visiting a store, or will have a smartphone on hand when in a physical store, retailers need to consider the implications for their businesses. While merchants use to rely on promoting location to create a truly memorable shopping experience, the explosion of smartphones is pushing today’s retailers to place more emphasis on creating a connection and symbiotic experience anytime, anywhere, and across any device.”

Christophe Marcant, vice president of product strategy for Stibo Systems

Complementary channels

“Digital retailers are not completely immune to the challenges of bricks-and-mortar retailers. Instead, it is important to realise that these channels must complement each other and work in tandem. Retailers will need to revaluate the purpose of the high street store over the coming years and how it relates to digital channels as part of a holistic, omnichannel customer approach. People still want to be able to see and touch products, particularly high-end ones, before they end the purchase cycle. And whilst footfall might not reflect in-store transactions, retailers may need to absorb square foot costs in order to make up the profits digitally.

“In terms of technology being used in retail, the role of the smartphone is going to expand outside of that of the content provider. Currently customers are accustomed to using their devices for ‘showrooming’ and to compare prices and validate purchases throughout the purchase cycle. Over the coming year, sales are going to convert more through the mobile channel as a result of the normalisation of mPayments and specific geolocation targeting. Equally, it will be essential for retailers and brands to have a mobile presence either via an app or mobile-optimised website, in order to ensure the customer experience is as smooth and trouble-free as possible no matter what channel they use.”

Pat Phelan, VP of client services, EMEA, at Bazaarvoice

Richer content

““With mobile the key growth driver for ecommerce in 2013, retailers this year have been starting to understand the consumer journey much more clearly. The consumer journey is seldom a linear purchase directly through one channel, but typically has become a complex journey of multiple touchpoints incorporating, mobile, desktop, instore (showrooming) or instore digital media, offline content and finally frequently tablet as the final step in the route from ‘discovery’ to ‘purchase’ of a product.

“Today’s generation of customers are setting a new standard for how they interact with retailers. Consumer attention span seems to be dwindling and more and more retailers are emulating editorial layouts and using rich video content to engage customers. The clever twist that 2013 has brought to video is retailers merchandising this content effectively. Adding click-to-basket to video has allowed retailers to get closer to the store experience, collapsing the journey between inspiration and purchase.

“UX will remain king in 2014 and the competition will get ever hotter. Whilst this year has seen expensive, agency lead experimentation in new digital marketing and merchandising techniques, 2014 will see mass use of these methods. This will drive a need for retailers of all stripes to be able to create these in a cost-effective manner.”

Max Childs, marketing director at Amplience

Hyper targeting to change buyer behaviour

“Data analytics in the retail sector is now so advanced that customer transactions, online conversations and shopping habits can now all be absorbed by retailers in real-time, so brands can understand better how to service their customers.

“Shoppers crave a personal service, and the digital world makes it much easier for retailers to track shoppers’ buying patterns and preferences. Frequency of online visits, transactional spend amount, time period spent in store and preferred delivery method can all be tracked. Retailers need to use this information to their advantage to provide customers with a personalised service and to be able to reward them for their loyalty.”

Craig Sears-Black, UK managing director, Manhattan Associates

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