Peak Shopping Season Is Over - What Did We Learn?

Less-than-stellar retail results do not suggest the end of Brick & Mortar, but rather illustrate in-store brands are not keeping up with today's shopper

Phill Brougham
Posted by Phill Brougham
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adolescent-bag-beautiful-919436When High Street Retailers gingerly published revenue figures earlier this year, there were familiar cries despairing the death of the High Street, smug Ecommerce techies grinning “I told you so” while high-fiving in-between rounds of table tennis, and whoever coined the term “Brick & Murder” could be found somewhere nodding in approval. However, despite the less than stellar commercial results, is this really the end of the in-store experience?

In our last retail blog predicting the winners & losers of the peak season, we outlined that a mobile first strategy will be a winner, but it turns out this analysis is only partially correct. In fact, what wins consumers today is a seamless omnichannel experience. It’s not so much that High Street retailers suffer because they are on the High Street, it’s that the in-store and online experiences are not joined up sufficiently.

Connect the Dots

The average shopper actually buys only 38% of their clothes online - a pretty staggering counter to the claim Brick & Mortar is dying, while even the consumers who buy up to 70% of clothes online, over half - at 54% - still like to try clothes on in-store. What’s driving this?

Consumers today seek an omnichannel experience. They want to interact with brands across multiple channels: check out the latest collection on Instagram, try clothes in-store and browse, do a price comparison on the web, and order Click & Collect to pick up when they’re ready.

It’s no wonder then that multi-channel customers are the most valuable for brands. These shoppers take time to educate themselves about their options and the product, and allows brands multiple touch points to market to them. High Street retailers just haven’t come around to these consumer preferences, that’s why they’re not performing.

What does this Mean for Customer Service?

Contact volumes are going up, while the number of rudimentary, process-based queries will increase as businesses offer more convenient solutions. For example, 44% of Britons regretted their online fashion purchases in 2018, which is good news for brands offering a seamless returns experience, but this of course does raise the service workload.

Additionally, given the omnichannel dynamic, successful brands will expand service to all communication channels to build trust, consistency and convert shoppers. Moreover, they will use tools that provide a central view of the customer so their history, profile and preferences are known by whoever engages them, especially customer service.

We also know that in customer service response times and customer effort are critical factors in loyalty, basket sizes and repeat purchases. Resources, however, need to be investment to generate healthy metrics, especially if new channels are launched. Service teams will need to streamline processes, encourage self-service and automate as much repetitive work as possible to craft a memorable and simple experience.

The Winners

The retail companies who survive and thrive understand that a seamless “brick and mobile” approach is at the heart of their strategy; they are not abandoning in-store, they are equipping their business for omnichannel. It’s no wonder that internet companies like Amazon are opening up physical stores to take advantage of these consumer preferences while providing the best customer experience and service at each and every touchpoint.

  1. Internet Retailing (Link)
  2. Conversant Media (Link)
  3. ECommerce News (Link)
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