The convergence of both digital and physical channels in the way people shop has been a major trend over recent years, however, there remains a clear disconnect between online and in-store retail experiences. The customer journey is no longer linear, it is much more sophisticated and it is more difficult to establish its starting point.
Many customers research a product online before going to a physical store to purchase it, only to be targeted by online advertising for that product the next day – this is a clear example of inadequate customer communication.
In the meantime we see customers demanding a very personal, high quality experience with retailers, leaving organisations with a number of key challenges.
So how can companies adapt to these changes in approach to shopping and the high demands that the modern customer has?
It Is Time to Go ‘Phygital’
This hybrid in-store/online approach to retail can work in a number of ways – as much as a customer is likely to research a product online to shop in-store, many will look to sample the product in a physical store before making their purchase online.
It is vital for businesses to understand the different interactions that have occurred with a customer to make sure their needs are fulfilled and to target advertising at them in the right way moving forward.
To achieve this they require both online and offline touch points with the customer.
There is no longer a distinction between channels as digital and physical are one, and understanding this ecosystem will help organisations have better knowledge of what customers are looking for at a specific moment in time.
Don’t Be Daunted by Data
With channels converging into a phygital world, the variety of data available continues to grow.
More and more technologies are becoming available to build up a fuller picture of who the customer is and what they are looking for with their retail experience, and that includes IoT, geo-location, social media data, etc.
By implementing solutions to capture, track and analyse all this data, a retailer can start to build a profile of each of their customers and provide them with the customised, personal experience that so many are demanding today.
It allows organisations to not just track transactions, but interactions too, both in-store and online, and suddenly the retailer has the resources to enable one-to-one communication and personalised targeting.
This results in optimised marketing, lower costs and increased efficiency.
With powerful analytics capabilities, organisations can predict customer behaviours, optimise marketing campaigns, and provide a more complete customer experience. As a starting point, customers won’t be targeted by frustrating adverts for a product they purchased just the day before.
Don’t Forget to Listen
Effective communication based on analytics is vital, however companies cannot neglect listening to and acting on customer feedback.
Social media has evolved to the point where brands and companies can listen to and communicate with customers individually to achieve customer loyalty. Social media listening can also give highly valuable insight into what a customer wants from a product or their shopping experience.
A great example of where this can be used to benefit the company is with product launches, where a wave of opinion is expressed and the feedback can be captured to help with the development of that product.
Positive Value Exchange
The key to successful and meaningful communication with customers is to have a positive value exchange.
I believe that part of the problem is that companies have adopted an approach of talking at customers, rather than with them, and a fundamental human characteristic is forgotten here in that people like to engage in conversations where they both hear and are heard.
The digital age has created new challenges for retailers in terms of achieving customer satisfaction, but as can be seen above, it has also bought a variety of new tools to give them a better understanding of a customer’s needs than ever before.
The trend we will see over the coming years is more and more retailers implementing both online and offline touch points to capture this data, and deploying data analytics solutions to break the data down and turn it into actionable information.
The brands that develop the best understanding of the customer ecosystem and implement the best solutions to achieve a real-time dialogue with their customers, will ultimately be the winners.