Gone are the days when an in-store merchandising company can put a solution on the floor and think of it as impacting what happens in the store only. Consumers shop in a world that is becoming increasingly multi-channel but they operate in a mindset that is decidedly cross-channel. A new shopper orientation toward multiple and varied inputs requires us to connect the dots when developing a solution for a retailer. The path to purchase is more personal and consequently less predictable, and display or kiosk user experiences must reflect this environment.
Surprisingly, it is sometimes the in-store merchandising company that is raising the “have you considered” questions that bring multi-channel and cross-channel execution into the discussion of a project’s scope.
We serve our customers well by showing them how to leverage the capability of one channel to impact another. It requires us to constantly look ahead.
Here are five trends in multi-channel retailing that we think retailers should take note of:
1) Mirroring of the online experience
Online shopping has recast expectations for retail shopping. Trendwatching.com says the legacy of etailing that carries over into retailing is the desire for endless choice, instant gratification, total transparency, and seamless collaboration. Shopping kiosks and iPad stations, with software featuring inventory, the online catalog, price checking, promotional offers, and social media connection — everything that can be accessed online — are examples of how retailers can respond to this new reality.
Content from another channel — a PC, a counter unit, a kiosk — increasingly will migrate to our mobile device. Bringing ecommerce in-store implies the objective of completing a transaction there, and studies have shown that kiosks do keep people in the store. When something interrupts that process, referring content to the mobile device enables future consideration and purchase. The shopping path crosses from one channel to another, and there is a segment of shoppers quite comfortable with this behavior. A recent survey by Local Corporation cited on kioskmarketplace.com found 28% of consumers surveyed use two devices at one time to shop.
It is a personalized web, and that experience can be replicated in-store. One way to provide relevance is to incorporate a shopper’s loyalty number into the user experience of a self-service kiosk. Additionally, we are beginning to see beacon-like hardware that can be incorporated into an otherwise passive display that can deliver location-relevant offers and information. With the addition of a consumer application running on a phone, a shopper’s loyalty information can be factored in with location to bring additional relevancy to mobile content. Coupons are a perfect example of content
that can be made more relevant and personal when accessed in-store and can be ported from one channel to another.
4) Social integration
Retailers have been taking steps for quite some time to incorporate social sharing into their marketing. This seems no less important with recent changes to social media platforms that make them more visual and with the ascendancy of Pinterest. Pinterest is a visually oriented social platform that lets users group images (think products) around themes, use-occasions and interests. In February Pinterest was reported by Mobile Commerce daily to have driven more traffic to websites than Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined. From a user standpoint, it is a way to bring social recognition to products without having to express an on-going affinity for a brand. From a retailer viewpoint, it promotes discovery. It is too soon to tell exactly what commercial
impact Pinterest will have, but the Pin-It button bears forethought when developing an online, in-store, or mobile solution. users will come to expect its presence across multiple channels.
5) Personal clienteling
The introduction of tablets at retail, whether hand-held, in countertop displays or kiosks, makes for a more dynamic, interactive and convenient sales experience than anyone imaged a few short years ago. For the salesperson, tablets can be a powerful customer service and line-busting tool. If a retailer develops a specific tablet application, it can provide more information than simple access to a website. Forwardlooking retailers are now using tablet applications to integrate with inventory management, give the salesperson access to the customer’s loyalty program and connect the salesperson with similar stores and corporate headquarters. In planning for tablets at retail, consideration should be given to flexible solutions that can serve both assisted selling and self-service scenarios.
For a retailer, a presence in all the right channels is not enough. Consumers want to experience a brand, not a channel. They expect continuity and a response that is relevant to their needs. Connecting channels enables the personalized path to purchase that consumers desire. The obvious benefit is that it elevates the value of a retailer’s brand in the eyes of the consumer. For a retailer, planning across channels facilitates the development of merchandising solutions that will be on trend with consumer behavior.