Old Meets New: Serving Customers and the Key to Retail Success
In the past decade, innovations in technology have provided incredible convenience for the average consumer. The combination of digital and physical retail offers consumers more choice over where, when and how they buy. In addition to digital tools and services, however, shoppers still want the human touch.
Though mobile and online shopping have greatly transformed the retail landscape, there's still a vital place for the brick-and-mortar store. Some consumers might continue to exclusively use them, others may prefer to browse online before purchasing at a physical location. The point is, retailers must offer the cross-channel integration that consumers demand and meet them on their terms.
Unified Commerce is the New Norm
In our most recent Global Shopping Report, which surveyed 4,500 consumers around the world on what they expect from both online and physical stores, the need for unified commerce was clearly evident. Findings showed that 70 percent of shoppers around the world still prefer to make purchases in-store, although this isn't the only channel they use. Most consumers will at minimum conduct preliminary research via digital channels. In fact, 91 percent of U.S. consumers said they have researched a product online before buying it in-store later. This magnifies the need for retailers to unify physical and digital channels to create a frictionless, integrated buying journey for customers.
Furthermore, the majority of global consumers (70 percent) reported that if a store didn't offer a “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) option, their decision to shop there would be influenced. BOPIS is one of many unified commerce offerings that have become consumer expectation. Cross-channel options are no longer a “nice to have,” but rather a “must have.” Successful traditional retailers, such as Walmart, have excelled at offering BOPIS, which has allowed them to remain competitive against the likes of Amazon.com and other digital-only retailers.
Data is a Commodity
There’s a lot of talk these days about what companies do with our personal data, as well as privacy concerns around those practices. Findings show that most consumers are willing to hand over personal data if it means they'll receive some kind of benefit leading to a better shopping experience. Seventy-six percent of consumers globally said they're willing to share personal information in exchange for incentives such as a larger discount.
Retailers can take advantage of these data-driven services to engage with their customers and provide targeted offerings. Leveraging consumer-specific data is crucial to modify services across all channels. There's no doubt the current global debate about data privacy is a serious one, but consumers have shown they're not opposed to sharing personal data in return for concrete benefits. Retailers must be up-front about the trade-off and be well-intentioned about how they use that data.
The Importance of Digital Payments
As we know, physical stores aren't dead; however, they must adapt to meet changing consumer needs. This raises the importance of offering digital and contactless payments options in-store. Ninety-four percent of respondents are now using cashless payment methods when they shop in physical stores. Merchants must provide seamless digital purchasing options in their stores to accommodate this widespread payment norm or risk losing out to competition.
Consumers prefer cashless payment methods because they're quicker, more secure, and more convenient than others. For retailers, these types of payments improve efficiency and lower costs, and time and money spent on handling cash is vastly reduced.
Overall, unified commerce has become the new standard for retail. While digital offerings have become widespread, consumers remain loyal to physical stores. Retailers must leverage the value of digital services to make the most of their customers’ in-store shopping journeys, ensuring they're seamless and convenient.
Markus Eichinger is executive vice president, group strategy, at Wirecard, a fully integrated, digital financial commerce platform.
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