There’s no doubt that retailers were dealt a blow in 2020. Although customers flocked to e-commerce solutions in droves, this was largely driven by immediate necessity during the peak of the pandemic. Now that quarantine restrictions are being eased globally and commercial activity resumes, many retailers are left wondering where in-store shopping demand will lie in the future.
Given Amazon Prime Day 2021 sales topped $5.6 billion in just one day, retailers underestimate e-commerce at their peril. But this doesn’t mean that brick-and-mortar stores are out of the race entirely. According to McKinsey, retailers must be hyper-aware of continuously evolving consumer habits and public sentiment to keep an edge during these competitive times. An omnichannel retail experience helps brands gain valuable insights on consumer preferences and offer a tailored approach that can help to meet the desires of a wider customer base.
By rethinking the purpose of physical stores and placing them in an end-to-end omnichannel sales strategy, retailers can breathe new purpose into these outlets that meet the changing face of retail in 2021 and beyond.
Setting the Foundations for Omnichannel Success
Omnichannel strategies help retailers ensure they can meet a variety of customer expectations and move away from an obsolete one-size-fits-all approach. When it comes to securing a sale, tech that enables a seamless customer experience (CX) across every channel makes the winning difference, according to Raconteur.
Compared to websites, mobile apps offer improved CX, better metrics, increased security, and better customer retention rates. Therefore, a well-designed, stable mobile app should be at the core of every omnichannel strategy. However, persuading customers to download and install the app isn't always a simple journey.
Customers need to feel the app is worth the storage space on their device and the hassle of set-up and registration. To address this challenge and grow a healthy app user base, retailers must offer attractive value propositions. With this in mind, the purpose of brick-and-mortar stores in the new retail landscape begins to take shape.
Stores as Showrooms
It’s no secret that brick-and-mortar stores are also accompanied by high overheads including rent, stock delivery, recruitment, staff training, and insurance to name a few. But despite the rapid growth of e-commerce, physical stores still have a role to play, albeit in a different format — providing a tailored experience that remains agile to new demand and supporting overall sales and marketing strategies.
Consumers still want to visit stores in person, whether it’s to test new products or skip delivery wait times by collecting items in-store. What’s more, stores in prominent locations still hold value as a direct marketing tool by keeping the retailer's brand in customers’ minds.
In the new retail landscape, it’s helpful to think of stores transitioning into something closer to a showroom. The showroom is a place to sell as well as an invitation to your online presence. Showrooms need to be thought of and presented as both. Once a shopper is in a showroom, there needs to be some sort of an incentive to also introduce them to your digital channels, preferably in the form of a well-built mobile app.
Here's when cloud-based streaming enters the picture to ensure that the customer transition from in-store to digital is as easy as possible.
Driving App Downloads and Usage at Every Touchpoint
The e-commerce boom of 2020 left a permanent impact on customer expectations. Whether online or in-store, customers want things quickly, easily and in their method of choice. Retailers with a cohesive omnichannel strategy have an opportunity to turn this to their advantage by driving in-store shoppers to online channels.
Let’s imagine there’s a customer keen to purchase a new set of speakers but is reluctant to place an online order without testing the sound quality in person. With omnichannel, that customer can visit a brick-and-mortar store to confirm their brand and model of choice, then be directed to the retailer’s app to complete the purchase and have the bulky item sent directly to their home. In this way customers can buy what they need without friction and retailers can reduce the steep costs associated with physical stores by fulfilling orders through the online arm of the brand, where stock can be stored in bulk at warehouses.
But even if that speaker has a heavy discount and your app has been coded to perfection, it still can’t guarantee that the customer will decide to hit download. Cloud-hosting technology can address this. When retailers utilize cloud services for their apps, the decision to download is eliminated as customers can enjoy the app in full through streaming. The trigger to stream the app may be embedded in an online ad, a QR code, a tweet, essentially any medium that allows the user to launch the app through streaming. In this way, retailers offer a no-strings-attached way to instantly experience the mobile app. This may not only close an immediate sale but also create an invaluable new user acquisition (UA) funnel.
But it’s not just brick-and-mortar stores set to benefit: Cloud streaming helps to align the whole omnichannel approach at every touchpoint as the same barrier to install exists online and in-person.
Whether it’s special discounts available in-store through the mobile app, more choices of a product available on the app, a message from a brand ambassador in the form of a tweet that leads to instantly using the app, or an online ad that instantly launches the mobile app, cloud-streaming allows customers to engage with the retail app with just a simple click. Retailers may use unique QR codes, tailored short links, and social media to drive new users to instantly use their app through streaming at every opportunity. Even if these users only stream at first, the strategy provides a way to drive new UA funnels to the app that could convert into long-term users.
The Final Word
By moving towards omnichannel, all elements of a retailer's operations stand to be optimized. Retailers can learn what the most popular shopping habits are from online data and ensure that physical stores are stocked with the best-sellers that are most likely to drive sales.
With these data insights in hand, retailers can ensure they remain competitive and keep up to speed with customer expectations in 2021 and beyond.
Raheel Hasan is a serial entrepreneur who has been working with cloud-based technology for over 15 years. He's the founder of 1App, a cloud-based streaming platform that provides instant access to mobile apps without having to download them.
Raheel Hasan is a serial entrepreneur who has been working with cloud-based technology for over 15 years. He is the founder of 1App, a cloud-based streaming platform that provides instant access to mobile apps without having to download them.