Combination of Online and In-Store the Key to Successful Retail Strategy

Top Three Ways to Overcome Constraints
The new report from Retail Systems Research (RSR) titled The Great Leveler: eCommerce's Next Move# highlights the challenges and opportunities retailers are facing as we approach the 2013 holiday season.

As I have written before, with digital technologies, the path to purchase is no longer linear, nor is it one-dimensional. Multi device ownership is a reality#. Smartphones and tablets are changing our behaviors by putting an ever-increasing abundance of options at our fingertips, including when and how to make a purchase.

While we do most of our research at home on desktops or tablets, mobile devices continue to drive purchase decisions in the store. This isn’t just for large ticket items, but for everyday products, too. The beauty industry offers a good example of this trend.

According to a March 2012 survey of online buyers in North America conducted by A.T. Kearney, people spent 33% to 45% of their monthly beauty and personal care budgets online. Shoppers are using both etailers and brick-and-mortar stores to purchase these types of products.

Brands need to step up their multichannel marketing efforts to reach customers wherever they are buying.

However, for retailers, unlocking new opportunities to influence and persuade customers to buy is not just about integrating new tools. It is about understanding people.

While retailers have always specialized in getting to know their customers, the increased availability of communication and transaction channels is posing some unique challenges.

Where do customers go to find out about products? What roles do search, content, reviews and recommendations, and access/speed play in the customer journey? How does a retailer create a single view into customer interactions across different touch points?

Why attention alone is not enough

Attention may be the currency of the Web. However, it alone does not translate into action. People spend more time online, visit more Web pages, and click on more links than ever before, yet all this isn’t necessarily leading to more transactions.

Today, a Web or in store visit from a mobile user is almost certainly less likely to convert into a purchase just from a click. Brand tweets are seen by ten times as many people, yet they are only half as likely to get clicked on as they used to be.

While attention online seems to go up fast, the amount of interaction it leads to is not increasing at the same rate. Browsing doesn’t equate action, and action doesn’t scale as quickly as browsing.

This is why designing experiences that support what your customers are trying to do is more important than ever. Starting with an understanding of who buys from you and tailoring your approach to their needs.

Better performing retailers see their eCommerce platforms of today becoming their cross-channel platform of the future, says the RSR report. Although budgets are tightening, retailers seek to improve traffic to their sites through search and keep customers there once they arrive by boosting sites' browse capabilities.

Retailers know they have to enable customers to live out their paths to purchase the way they already do.

The difference is, to become a preferred brand, they need to shift how they think about the customer journey from the retailer-centered pre-shopping/shopping/and buying phases to customer-driven behaviors: discovery, engagement, conversion, and loyalty. Then support the needs of each stage in the journey with digital tactics.

As buyers continue to blur the line between digital/in store, the next wave of digital innovation will be in store. Respondents for the RSR survey confirm this developing trend with the admission that where “websites” once needed to be as exciting as stores, stores are now in desperate need of being as exciting as the online experience.

Highlights from the report

On the one hand,’s march towards market dominance is forcing retailers to differentiate their digital presence into something else. On the other, the “new” consumer’s influence is so powerful that not only does it permeate the external challenges retailers face; it also creeps into the operational challenges.

This generates:

  • business challenges (external) — among the top are uncertain customer demand, maintaining growth rates, keeping up with evolving consumer shopping patterns: social networks, mobile, etc., getting consumers to engage more online, and generating acceptable margins
  • operational challenges (internal) — like deploying cost effective shipping and fulfillment, understanding and accommodating how different customer segments engage, optimizing inventory deployment across all channels, and coordinating with other channels to create a seamless brand experience

And on the other side of the coin are:

  • opportunities — like improving search and browse capabilities and fulfillment processes, providing richer product detail information using photos and video, embedding more social capabilities, and investing in cross-channel capabilities

The top three roadblocks to extending eCommerce platforms to other parts of the retail organization are:

  1. budgeting
  2. resources
  3. hard to quantify ROI

Download the full report and recommendations at RSR.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.

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