A new generation of consumers demand accurate, consistent data across multiple channels with 81% researching products online before buying in store. Consumers consult product data on multiple channels almost simultaneously via their mobiles, laptops, in-store and on social media. And with 69 percent of consumers saying that their brand loyalty is affected by cross-channel consistency, retailers are taking them seriously and looking to move from a multichannel strategy to a focus on agile commerce, which Forrester Research has described as “multichannel done right”.
Embracing the Channel-Less Consumer
Regardless of whether she is at a physical store, her laptop at work or in the airport with her eyes glued to her mobile device, the modern consumer expects a consistent, integrated experience across channels. She also expects easy access to local in-store product availability on digital channels. When she does arrive at her local store, she doesn’t want to spend time hunting for the perfect pair of shoes she already found online – she wants to find them waiting for her, packaged up and ready to be taken home.
If you think the modern consumer sounds demanding, you aren’t incorrect, but it’s also beside the point. In a world where customers have nearly infinite choices and 86% have indicated the willingness to pay more for a better shopping experience, retailers must be relentless in the their quest to deliver exceptional experiences that incorporate the best of the physical and digital worlds.
Let’s consider digital channels, which allow for round-the-clock shopping, an expanded assortment and the ability to buy in the convenience of one’s home. While consumers appreciate these attributes, they likely miss some of the benefits they would typically receive in store – for example, a friendly store associate to help shoppers find what they need, the ability to try on an outfit and immediate access to their purchases.
To solve for the store associate, smart retailers are using technology to offer personalized recommendations; we know this matters to consumers because 56% of consumers are more likely to buy from stores which address them by name and 58% make a purchase due to personalized recommendations. As for the dressing room, rich product content and images, along with product reviews that give crowdsourced opinions on sizing can help online consumers get a sense of what products look like and how they might fit. Finally, when it comes to instant purchase access, offering online buyers easy access to inventory availability in local stores, coupled with programs that allow consumers to buy online and pick up in store, can help today’s consumers get the instant gratification they crave.
Retailers Embracing Agile Commerce
While no retailer has created an experience that completely integrates the best of the online and offline world’s a few retailers are making significant strides.
For Amazon, an ecommerce giant with a nominal brick and mortar presence, filling the gaps in their digital offering required some creativity around how to best bring the dressing room experience into the home of the consumer. One option, Prime Wardrobe, allows consumers to order up to 10 items of clothing to try on at home and only pay for those they decide to keep and another, Echo Look, provides consumers with an artificial intelligence powered shopping assistant to help them look their best.
Nordstrom, a 116 year old retailer, has long been known for being a timeless customer-service powerhouse with careful hiring practices and excellent in-store staff.Today, they are looking to replicate that experience in ways that will resonate with a new breed of customers. For the digital buyer who craves instant gratification, Nordstrom offers the ability to search only online, but only for products currently available in their local store – the customer can then buy online and have their new purchase immediately ready for pick-up at their local store. For the shopper overwhelmed by options and craving a pleasant, low-stress buying experience, Nordstrom offers the same experience in reverse. The department store has recently launched a small showroom in Los Angeles which allows consumers to browse in store and then buy online. The store offers manicures onsite, but sell no clothing at all – if consumers like what they see they can place a digital order, which allows Nordstrom to keep the store small and uncluttered while still consistently having the right sizes in stock.
Achieving Agility is No Easy Feat
Today’s retailers are managing more products, partnerships, channels and brands than ever before. What makes this even more challenging is that unlike the physical supply chain, the digital supply network is nonlinear, requiring numerous back and forth interactions between retailers, suppliers, channels and partners. The emergence of large players, like Forever 21 and Zara, which specialize in fast fashion, have further accelerated market trends by making consumers hungry for a constant influx of new products and shortening the product lifecycle.
The difficulties of managing a network that is both larger and more asynchronous is exacerbated by the challenges of bringing products to market faster than ever before. To address this, retailers need to look to new technologies that empower them to integrate multiple data sources into a centralized hub; collaborate to produce rich,customized product content; and deliver accurate information to an array of partners, channels and customers.
Please reach out to learn more about how Riversand can help you deliver true agile commerce, meeting the needs of modern consumers by delivering robust, convenient and diverse omnichannel experiences.
1. AdWeek, “81% of Shoppers Conduct Online Research Before Buying”, November 2014
2. Forrester Research, “Agile Commerce: Know it When You See It”. 2012.
3. Walker, Customers 2020: A Progress Report Infosys
4. Accenture Interactive, “Personalization Pulse Check”, 2016