We all know there has been a tremendous shift in behavior brought on by the pandemic. Consumers are now spending more time at home, little to no time in the office and only limited time in stores and shopping centers. Shopping is being done online and mostly from home.

While some consumer segments will likely return to brick-and-mortar stores, many will adapt to a hybrid purchasing pattern. They will shop online when convenient and in-store when they feel like it. Consumers will no longer stick to a single channel. To capture the interest of consumers, retailers need to offer something extra in all channels. They need to create a human connection and be prepared to meet consumers wherever they are. To enable interaction with consumers regardless of channel, retailers must adapt to a unified commerce model.

Therefore, this new world requires changes in organizational infrastructure, IT, and supply chain. By analyzing where the consumers are and how retailers will keep up with them, we believe there are two key success factors for the modern retailer:

  • Update physical stores
  • Catch and keep the interest of consumers

Update physical stores

With a larger portion of sales being made online (estimates are that 50% of sales will be online by 2025), retailers are adapting their network of stores to suit new customer patterns better. Store formats, locations and assortments are being updated to meet the new demands. Stores are moving away from simply being places where purchases are made: they are becoming fulfillment centers. Retailers, therefore, need to invest in an agile, next-gen order management system (OMS) to deliver customer-centric commerce, enable responsive last-mile deliveries, and offer consumers a multiplicity of touchpoints and distribution channels.

It is not enough to adapt to a new and agile IT architecture to provide unified commerce. The whole organization must adapt.

For example, the purchase price should be the same regardless of channel, requiring a business structure that does not create unhealthy competition between the online and physical channels. Incentive structures need to be reworked, and the way physical stores are assessed needs to be updated.

In addition to becoming fulfillment centers, stores also serve as gathering places where an emotional bond with the consumer and the community is created. Examples of this are sport apparel stores offering free yoga classes or running sessions, which ties the consumer tighter to the retailer. And these consumers are more likely to stick with the retailers long-term.

To enable the new role of physical stores and to meet consumers adapting to omnichannel retail, accurate and available data has become a must-have. Actual stock at all locations and at all times must be known for strategic reasons for the retailer, and stock must be displayed for the convenience of consumers.

Smart tag technologies such as RFID create transparency and enhance inventory reliability, reducing stock levels and optimizing operations linked to order preparation. For example, Yara International ASA is one of the world’s leading crop nutrition companies and gained full control over their end-to-end production and delivery process by implementing an automated digital process based on RFID and real-time reporting. In addition, we recently assisted a French luxury house in its RFID worldwide deployment in order to innovate and boost its supply chain, reshape the luxury retail experience and build the store of tomorrow. The main benefits were operational traceability and efficiency and an enhanced customer experience through optimizing stock management operations via faster receiving and inventory processes, streamlining operational processes in stores and improving stock accuracy. These processes enable retailers to direct products to stores and fulfillment centers seeing demand, increasing the inventory sell-through rate and offering products where consumers are. They also support growing omnichannel trends such as click and collect and pick-up points.

Catching and keeping a consumer’s interest

Consumers are fed up with the bad news revolving around the pandemic and the onslaught of advertising which has led to emotional exhaustion. As a result, the attention span of consumers has decreased, and it is harder than ever to catch and keep a consumer’s interest. To increase sales, strategies involving retention are critical.

70%

The abandonment rate of online shopping carts is 70% - getting the increasingly distracted consumer to complete the purchase, the shopping experience must be smooth, intuitive, and entertaining.

It is essential having the online experience match and complement the physical store. Many retailers add digital content such as live shopping, social shopping, and virtual customer service to “humanize” the digital arena and increase the entertainment value. It is also essential to meet the consumers where they are, even if they are in external channels managed by other companies such as Facebook or Instagram.

Data analytics makes it possible to extract essential information about which segments are struggling with low retention rates. Based on this information, features and methods can be optimized to increase retention and conversion rates.

Conclusion

In summary, consumers are moving away from store-based shopping to digital purchases. However, the era of physical stores is not over. To stay relevant, stores need to facilitate hybrid purchase patterns. Reinventing stores involves maximizing utilization by partially turning them into fulfillment centers. But these changes put a lot of pressure on logistics and inventory management and increase the need for a transparent and reliable supply chain. By investing in product traceability technologies, retailers realize smoother and faster last-mile delivery services and increased sell-through rates.

When analyzing the decreasing attention span of consumers, a successful retention strategy leads to competitive advantages. Through humanizing the digital arena, consumers are more likely to stay entertained and engaged, resulting in an enhanced retention rate.

The retail industry is facing challenges to meet consumers where they are.

Instead of mourning the fall of traditional methods, retailers should seize the opportunity to interact with consumers through a variety of channels. In a way, it is easier than ever to reach a consumer; retailers just need the right tools to do so.

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