It’s All About Me—The Everywhere Consumer

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Oct 12 2014, Posted by InReality

This article was originally written for Chain Store Age where it was published on September 12, 2014.
Webrooming, showrooming … I’m guilty of it all. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. After all, it is all about me, the everywhere consumer, and my super power … the power to choose. I can shop in-store, but I can also, just as easily, shop online; my only concern is that my needs and expectations are met.

The pitting of online against traditional retail and subsequent Webrooming-showrooming statistics have made very clever headlines. But, have these glossy headlines shifted retail focus away from what really matters?

Today’s connected consumers take their mobile devices EVERYWHERE. So it is not that surprising that these devices are now influencing consumer purchase behavior in-store and out-of-store. That said, let’s debunk these myths that 1) somehow retail professionals are shocked by the ‘rooming’ trends, and 2) these really smart people in retail actually believe online is the threat to be conquered.

The reality is that online retail isn’t going anywhere. And, to be frank, assertions that online has been the cause of brick-and mortar’s declining sales and will soon be the cause of its demise are, at best, ill-advised. The fact is, the real decision-maker when it comes to determining brick-and-mortar’s fate is not online, but rather, consumers. So perhaps a better explanation for brick-and-mortar’s performance is its own failings in the experience it offers its customers. After all, according to a recent Oracle study, a staggering 89% of customers confessed to switching brands because of a poor in-store experience.

The everywhere consumer

The real story may seem a little less headline appropriate, but the truth is, it isn’t any less of a scary diagnosis for brick-and-mortar or the brands selling within it, who stand to lose their current hold on over 90% of sales, or over $4 billion in sales revenues last year.

Today’s everywhere customers will shop where, if, how, and when they want, leaving retailers with two choices, adapt or die. To survive, brick-and-mortar retailers and the brands selling inside them must stop comparing online against traditional. Instead, they must start treating both as unique channels with unique roles in fulfilling customer needs and expectations and creating happy and loyal customers.

So how can you give me a brick-and-mortar experience that is sure to please?

Make it easy for me.

Don’t work to create selling environments, with on-line only and in-store only deals or hassle-some online returns. Instead work to facilitate painless, worry-free buying environments everywhere. It’s time to end all the marketing gimmicks that support the online-versus-traditional battle, but only frustrate and impede customers on their path to purchase and take the joy out of their experience. Consumers expect retailers to be everywhere they are at any point in time online, on-mobile or in-person. So retailers must be willing and able to adopt the technologies, pricing and merchandising that match consumer desires to research and buy as they please, where they please and when they please.

Engage me.

Connect with customers where, when and how they’d like. We’re in a technologically-driven world and brick-and-mortar should reflect that. The days of static graphics and dated messaging are over. From implementing useful digital signage to pairing the latest locationing technology with mobile, retailers and the brands they sell need to revisit their store models to create the engaging environments that customers need and expect. Today, only 3% of retailers have the ability to identify the customer when they walk into the store, and another 72% plan to implement this within five years. The problem? Customers were expecting deeper levels of personalized engagement yesterday.

Show me why I should visit your store AND come back.

Define the role of the store versus online. To do this, retailers must rediscover the “why, how and wow” of their physical stores for consumers — why their physical store positively impacts consumers, how it helps move them along the buying process, and what the unique “wow” is that cannot be replicated in an online world.

Understand me.

Collect data through in-store measurement to learn more about customers. This understanding allows alignment of expectations, and provides insights into customer interests and levels of receptiveness. Since customers tend to spend money with businesses that demonstrate a deeper understanding of who they are and what they need, smart retailers and brands that leverage this opportunity stand to gain a rather large advantage.

The truth is, it’s all about me. And, the retail industry, particularly brick-and-mortar, would do well to learn that. To keep me happy, retailers and the brands selling within them need to focus on meeting my needs and expectations, reinserting the joy of shopping back into retail stores and truly embracing everywhere commerce. Otherwise, I might walk out that door and never come back. How’s that for a threat?

Image Copyright: patcharaporn1984 / 123RF Stock Photo

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