According to research by IBM, consumers want it all. The IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), in association with the National Retail Federation (NRF), conducted a global survey of more than 19,000 respondents across 28 countries. The research found that post-Covid, consumers now see digital tools as a necessary part of the shopping experience and expect stores to be digitally enabled and for brands and retailers to support hybrid shopping journeys, which blend physical and digital channels.
However, before we get into some of the findings from the report, I want to pick up on the use of the word ‘consumer’. As Martin Butler (a true hybrid himself, being part retailer, part marketer) wrote in his book, ‘People don’t buy what you sell – They buy what you stand for’, the first rule of retail branding is that it should always be about Customers, not consumers – in other words, it’s about real live people. To refer to customers as a consumer depersonalises them, conjuring up in his mind an image of a greedy creature hoovering up all that comes before them. Terminology like this creates distance between you and your customers. In an industry all about creating personal experiences and building trust, integrity and relationships, the word consumer should be avoided wherever possible. Point made; let’s get back to the report…
Whilst shopping can no longer be divided simply into online or offline experiences, many shoppers now prefer an “all-of-the-above” approach, visiting stores, shopping online, and using mobile apps interchangeably. The term “hybrid shopping” indicates how customers mix physical and digital channels to create their own preferred shopping journeys — for example, buying in-store, delivering to home, buying online, and picking up in-store. Shoppers want the freedom to choose whatever method is most convenient for them;
The good news is that brick-and-mortar stores remain central to the shopping experience, accounting for 45% of all shopping versus 27% hybrid and 28% online with several reasons why customers prefer shopping in stores highlighted within the report:
- Shopping in stores allows customers to physically see and touch products before making a purchase, which can help them make a more informed decision.
- Shopping in stores allows shoppers to pick and choose their own products, particularly when it comes to fresh products like meat, fish, fruit and vegetables.
- Shopping in stores is more convenient and provides immediate gratification as customers can take their purchases home immediately.
- In-store shopping can offer a more personalised experience, with knowledgeable staff available to answer questions and provide recommendations.
- Shoppers enjoy the social aspect of shopping with friends or family and enjoy interacting with staff and products, which is a great excuse to get out of the house and hunt down even better deals than online.
Whilst shoppers continue to use stores across a variety of shopping journeys, they still think the in-store experience can be improved, with 27% of shoppers wanting to speak to more informed and knowledgeable store staff with almost 60% looking to obtain product information in physical stores before purchasing – around 20% of these shoppers use their mobile devices during the purchasing process, and this trend is expected to increase.
Informing, educating and engaging frontline teams.
Retailers with knowledgeable and passionate employees have the potential to establish a devoted customer following and deliver unique and memorable shopping experiences. Despite this, the research indicates that only 13% of shoppers cite store staff as a reason to visit a physical store or choose a specific retailer. This presents an opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers to set themselves apart from their online-only counterparts by leveraging their employees in creative and innovative ways. RMS has long recognised that communication to store teams and customers is equally paramount to driving sales, customer experience and engagement. Metro’s Unified Comms digital workplace makes it easy for frontline workers to find all the information they need to excel in their roles. From up-to-date product information to KPI league ladders, employees perform best when they know how they are doing and can see how they contribute to the business’s mission and success.
Informing, educating and engaging customers at the shelf edge.
Ensuring stores provide price, promotion and product information (across a blend of technologies) is vital to competitive advantage, enticing shoppers to interact with products and convert them from browsers to buyers where it matters most – in the store, at the shelf edge. Metro Print takes care of everything today’s modern hybrid retailer needs to ensure legal and operational compliance – from accurate product descriptions, prices, barcodes, detailed ingredient and allergy content to country of origin, QR codes, emotive product imagery, marketing messages and brand rules to product knowledge sheets.
Shoppers expect stores to be digitally enabled and support hybrid shopping journeys, blending physical and digital channels to create their own shopping journeys. Brick-and-mortar stores remain central to the overall shopping experience, accounting for 45% of all shopping, with in-store shopping providing benefits such as physically seeing and touching products and having a more personalised shopping experience. However, shoppers believe the in-store experience can be improved, with almost 30% wanting to speak to more informed store staff. Additionally, they want stores to be exciting, interesting places to browse and shop. Therefore, providing impactful, accurate, engaging product information at the point of purchase (across all media types) is vital when it comes to converting browsers into buyers.
Metro’s digital workplace is helping more than 120+ leading brands deliver class-leading customer experiences addressing all the above challenges and more. Take your retail operations to the next level and get in touch today to arrange your personalised demonstration and find out more.