The retail landscape is shifting rapidly, and the lines between online and physical retail are blurring faster than an Instagram filter, but the in-person and in-store retail experience is as important as ever.
That’s the message that came out of a recent special report from Adobe’s CMO.com, entitled ‘The Evolution Of Retail In EMEA’.
“Consumers' march to e-commerce has been a dominant retail theme over the past decade, but traditional brick-and-mortar visits still remain crucial to success. Blending the best of both these channels could be the key to delivering outstanding results.”
On the one hand, the CMO.com report uncovers an industry that is becoming increasingly led by and reliant on technology, with 60% of millennials saying that they’d be happy to buy from a chatbot, and 45% of under-20s more than willing to try voice-activated ordering. “Hey Siri, I need a ramen burger, an IPA and some beard oil delivered asap.”
This has led to retailers racing to embrace the next sales-enabling technology, whatever that may be, with 28% of retail executives consider Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality as exciting opportunities for the years ahead.
But while VR and AR may capture headlines, the reality, not to mention the greatest gains, may be somewhat simpler - even when it comes to parting digital natives from their money - because 77% of Gen Z shoppers confess that they’d prefer to purchase in-store than online.
“Even the likes of Amazon are moving into the bricks-and-mortar retail space. That just goes to show you that, to truly win in retail, you need to offer exceptional and informed experiences both online and offline,” explains Speakap MD for UKI, Guy Chiswick.
“The ‘showrooming’ trend is here to stay and smart retailers are future proofing their business by embracing the digital experience in-store, not trying to ignore it or see it as competing for bricks-and-mortar sales.”
The rise of showrooming is leading to a renewed focus on the retail environment itself, with 44% of retail executives stating that improving the in-store experience is a key strategic priority for their organisations.
The future, in all likelihood, is neither totally digital or absolutely physical, with the winners in retail understanding the relationship that exists between all aspects of their brand and their customers. It’s a concept that’s being termed “Unified Retail” by industry thought leaders.
The CMO.com report reflects this in its assertion that, by 2020, 45% of all offline sales will be web-influenced, with research from Google suggesting that 84% of “smartphone shoppers” already use their mobile device when in-store to help make purchase decisions across all product ranges, from electronics to fashion and groceries.
“We see this trend spreading across Europe and it’s definitely the case in the UK,” says Chiswick. “And while many retailers are now responding to it by investing in digital, the really progressive retailers with a clear strategy - the likes of Apple, IKEA, Amazon and Rituals - understand that the in-store experience needs to be just as informative and inspiring as the digital experience, with store assistants being trained and entrusted as representatives of the broader brand and not only there to stock shelves and operate the check-out desk.”