Future-proofing retail: Maintaining a balance
In the past there was a distinct difference between the services that retailers would provide in-store and online, however as the retail landscape has evolved this is no longer enough. Now we are seeing a demand from consumers for a more integrated digital and face-to-face experience. According to Fujitsu's recent research into the UK's digital landscape, Digital Inside Out, one in four consumers always choose a digital option when it comes to retail, whilst online shopping and click and collect were the second and third most used digital services respectively. However, the research also made it clear that the need for face-to-face services is still a must, with over a fifth of consumers (21%) naming it as their first choice of communication, demonstrating why businesses need face-to-face services as well.
Click and collect is one example of how retailers have used digital services to marry the traditional bricks-and-mortar of retail with e and m-commerce, as a result reviving the high-street. Services such as click and collect offer consumers the best of e-commerce and the high-street, allowing them to decide how they want to shop – which is ultimately what has made them a success. Even e-commerce giant Amazon has made the move into bricks and mortar stores, highlighting the importance of the high street and the need to blend of digital and face-to-face services to remain competitive, even if they are primarily an e-commerce retailer.
Despite this growing demand for an integrated shopping experience, retailers need to be mindful of what digital services will enhance their business and customer experience, aligning their digital strategy with their overarching business strategy, rather than focusing on digital facets which simply serve an aesthetic purpose, yet provide no tangible business value. While elements, such as screens in-store, may appear to be digital, retailers must consistently question whether this enhances a customer's experience or increases revenue?
Instead of simply focusing on the customer facing services, retailers need to invest in the back-end infrastructure if they are to integrate valuable digital elements to their business. By synchronising the back-end with online systems, retailers can track and monitor stock levels across stores and online, as well as track deliveries in real-time. It's this type of integration that will give retailers the most value and return on investment; enabling them to have one view of both stock and the customer, in turn allowing them to provide the best service possible.
In order to satisfy the needs of the new connected consumer, retailers need to use digital services to create a seamless experience for their customers, enabling them to move between the various channels when shopping and always receive the same high level of service. Retailers who are able connect their bricks-and-mortar environment with the digital ones most seamlessly through back of store technologies will be the ones who can expect future success.
With the success of services such as click and collect, we will see collaboration between retailers become more prevalent. Retailers pay high premiums for store space and don't always have a substantial amount of product to make it financially sound.
As a result, collaborating and sharing space between non competitors will become increasingly popular, and has the added appeal of receiving both footfalls of customers, opening up and widening their customer pool; Argos and eBay have already been successful in doing this. As non-competitors they were able to sit together in store, giving Argos exposure to eBay customers, and vice versa. It is predicted more online retailers lacking a presence on the high street will be taking advantage of such collaborations in order to have a bricks and mortar outlet for their customers. Retailers will see the advantage from these collaborations through the added convenience it will have for their customers. It presents customers with a viable alternative from only using online and will benefit retailers from an increase in new customers being driven into store.
Digital services can significantly and positively impact retailers and the service that they provide for their customers. As we move into an even more digital nation, retailers are going to need to embrace such services and blend them with face-to-face services in order to ensure that they are looking after the needs of their customers. However in order to do this successfully retailers need to ensure that all points of the stores are conjoined in order to make these digital innovations add value to the business.
It will become more important to create a balanced and efficient offering that caters for all customers in order to future-proof their business. To keep up with these new connected consumers demands, retailers need to match their services across the board in both digital and bricks and mortar environments. If they wish to compete and remain ahead of the curve, they need to ensure that digital channels enhance a customer's experience so as to future-proof their business in an increasingly digital nation.
To read the full Digital Inside Out report, click here.
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