Not so long ago, it was called “window shopping.” Today, that term has evolved into “online window shopping.”
Today’s consumers are sophisticated and opportunistic, navigating between store and online environments interchangeably to meet their shopping needs of the moment. Traditional retailers with physical stores need new ways to keep up with fast evolving e-tailers to satisfy their empowered customers who demand satisfaction at all touch points.
Around the world, the retail industry and consumer habits are changing faster than anyone could predict. In emerging markets, particularly in Asia, the number of online users is equally large. The concentration of Generation Y and millenniums in Asia, the cultural emphasis on maintaining regular contact with friends and family, and the influx of mobile technologies and devices have contributed to this increasing online shopping habit.
Despite being home to four of the 15 largest shopping malls in the world, the emergence of online shopping stores in the Philippines has steadily changed the way Filipinos shop. In fact, a majority of, if not all, the local retail giants have already established their online shopping presence. Also, there are some notable standalone Philippine-based online stores like www.zalora.com.ph, www.lazada.com.ph and www.juanstore.com. Buying pre-owned items online has also become popular with homegrown online shopping portals like www.sulit.com.ph and www.ayos.com.ph.
The digital experience is influencing major changes in the store and online. To be a winner in this race, retailers need to become smarter by transforming into an omni-channel retailing, concentrated more on a seamless approach to customer experience through all available shopping channels.
Big Data can allow traditional retailers to deliver better shopping experience to their customers across all possible channels—in-store, online and on-the-go with mobile devices. The key is using data and analytics to better understand the behavior and preferences of shoppers to close the sale. Most consumers interact with brands or businesses with which they already have strong connection—a personal connection.
Still a personal journey
One of the ways to make the customer journey personal is through a personalized seamless customer experience whether online or in-store. If you know your customer in one channel, you need to know him or her in other channels as well. This means that your customer experience initiatives should not be devised as an isolated standalone program. They have to be thoughtfully integrated with other customer-facing initiatives.
An IBM study of 26,000 global consumers released in January at the 2013 National Retail Federation convention in the United States revealed that consumers were diversifying the way they shop for and acquire goods. They are becoming increasingly open to buying both online and in-store depending on their needs at time of purchase. While more than 80 percent of shoppers chose the store to make their last non-grocery purchase, only half are committed to returning there next time they buy.
Significantly, nearly a quarter of these online shoppers intended to buy their item in the store, but ultimately purchased online—primarily due to price and convenience. Retailers must connect their store and online presence to capture the sale to show roomers. Today, online-only retailers account for one-third of show roomer purchases. Younger, male and affluent shoppers are most likely to showroom.
Retailers must better connect their online and physical stores, blending benefits into both at various points in the shopping cycle—from research to purchase—to build brand loyalty and repeat sales. In the store, retailers must infuse digital experiences, enable store associates with the technology to save the sale and embrace consumer-owned technology. Online, retailers must optimize their websites for various devices—from iOS, Android to Windows platforms. The empowered customer expects seamless experience off and online.
Link online, physical store
Smarter retailers would use analytics solutions to provide the fact-based insight that they need to treat each consumer as an individual, meeting their growing expectation for personalization at all touch points. Analytics can also be used to identify why show roomers are shifting purchases online so retailers can act and adjust accordingly. With these unique capabilities in place, retailers would be able to see improved conversion rates and reduction in cart abandonment, leading to revenue growth and stronger profits.
(Ms Africa is the country manager for marketing of IBM Philippines)