The IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Sales Index has found that online sales in the UK fell by 9.1% in May 2021 versus a year earlier, Charged Retail reports – the most significant drop on record since the Index’s inception in 2000. While this is interesting, online sales have continued to rise since the 2019 pre-pandemic. It’s doubtful online sales will revert back to highstreet store purchases as the preferred choice, and unfortunately, we can see some retailers like GAP are pulling out of the high street completely but does this mean the high street is dead or does it mean it needs to adapt and pivot and focus on providing a unique service that’s joined up with their online presence too.

Online and offline shopping experiences are and will continue to become closer than ever before. With the advancement in technology and the desire for businesses to capture every customer experience, we will continue to see more and more brands blend online and offline and deliver seamless experiences. Unique experiences based on customer data does hold a massive opportunity to drive customers back in-store.

Companies can now drive unique in-store experiences by unifying customer data and providing the proper infrastructure and architecture to utilise customer data in-store and online. A truly omnichannel experience creation requires a designed strategy, a designed experience, the correct centralised delivery team organisational structure internally, the architecture to deliver it, new technology and in-store UI systems and trained sales staff to utilise the data and create the experience in-store. Plenty to get to work on!

Double down on data fueling customer experience

While some businesses are only just getting up to speed with using data to personalise experiences. Others are blazing the path of truly data-driven in-store experiences and seamless experiences across every touchpoint. Regardless of where a brand is now, omnichannel experiences start by exploring what experiences a brand would like to create and creating a unified profile to join up customer data sources. The technology is there, but businesses must start this journey by analysing their current technology stack, unifying data sources, and focussing on developing relationships with their customers and not expecting customers to be loyal. 

In essence, a brick-and-mortar store is just a destination data needs reach to provide personalised services and grow opportunities. It’s not quite as simple as that in practice, but the opportunity of having significant customer’s browsing or historical purchase data in-store is massive.  It can completely change the role of store staff and create unique and beneficial experiences in-store. Doubling down and preparing to succeed through utilising data is vital. It’s no longer an emerging opportunity, it’s here and has been for a while, and some competition is already being left behind from a data activation and loyalty experience perspective.

Re-imagine what a physical store does and how to bring the online experience in-store

While some companies are beginning to close stores, it’s important not to think this is the end. The high street and in-store experiences are irreplaceable online. Being able to touch clothes, discuss items with staff, try on clothes and engage with friends or store sales teams cannot be replicated to the same level online. This is why you see many online stores during lockdown providing in-store sales experiences and click and collect. Yes, consumers love speed and convenience, but it doesn’t mean all stores will become warehouses.

Brands now have the opportunity to re-imagine what an in-store experience delivers. Reducing the number of physical stores, for the time being, may open the door for genuinely breathtaking innovation and offer regrowth once a new age in-store experience is created. We’re working with our clients to develop strategies, data collection, technology capabilities and organisational design to improve the online experiences and develop a data-driven in-store experience. Our goal is to create effective and personalised in-store experiences that take the good of online shopping and combine it with the elements of in-store shopping we all love. 

Data and loyalty hold a massive key to developing truly unique in-store experiences driven by data. Understanding a shoppers’ historical browning behaviour, previous purchases, and in-basket items has an enormous opportunity to repurpose store staff to be personalised sales assistance. 

Not only will the sales staff have the existing requirement of a customer, but we can arm them with upsell and cross-sell opportunities based on machine learning and propensity modelling to predict possible items of interest. Allowing sales staff to provide an incredible relevant experience and hold that human element that the online store can’t possibly replicate.

Develop loyalty in a price-conscious world

With a rise in online shopping throughout the pandemic, online retailers will find themselves rich in new customer data. But we see customers be less loyal, more cost-effective, and savvier internet shoppers comparing prices on most purchases. But with an influx in new customers means a significant increase in data and the number of customers a business can communicate with. But, if a business gets its communication strategy and loyalty experience wrong, and doesn’t deliver a beneficial service with relevant and engaging offers that reflect the behaviours of their new customers, the data will become useless as customers will continue to shop based on the lowest price possible.

Businesses need to develop their loyalty propositions instead of spamming new customers with basic offers and non-personalised discounts. Successful businesses in the “new world” will be orchestrating loyalty in-store and online by creating data led propositions. Creating a unified customer profile opens the door to how brands can orchestrate customer engagements. Planning detailed customer onboarding journeys across multiple visits (both in-store and online), gamifying shopping by allowing customers to earn points and rewards by deepening the relationship, providing personal promotions based on previous purchases and browsing behaviour all create an actual beneficial loyalty program which is driven by understanding a customer’s needs and adapting the experience around them.

Brands should be orchestrating the experience from the first purchase to VIP customers and now should be looking at how the in-store experience is included in providing a seamless relevant and beneficial relationship that keeps customers engaged and coming back for more.

We’re working with our clients to unify customer data and develop promotions based on loyalty levels and historical purchases, not just flat sales messages. We’re also working on what the In-store loyalty benefits could and should be. Creating the in-store loyalty experience like VIP checkout, a personalised shopper experience, in-store discounts based on browsing history all could help build the offering and service of a new modern brick and mortar store and all would need customer loyalty at the heart of it to work.

Create not only cross-functional teams but truly Omni-Channel Experience Creators

Unfortunately, while the data and technology are there to blend the online and offline experience to better serve customers and create meaningful and unique experiences, it won’t happen until a company analyses their internal team structures and starts thinking of the customer first. 

We’ve seen the rise (finally) in cross-functional online teams focussing on customer outcomes and not individual KPIs, but to grasp what the high street could be, a company needs to create a customer experience centricity team who work across platforms and physical store experiences. With these roles and help from DMPG, you can begin to develop strategies to define and orchestrate customer engagements from the first sale to VIP loyalty experiences in-store and online and develop what an in-store data-driven experience and loyalty benefits should and could be. This then creates the requirements for the technology and architecture.

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