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Shifting retail customers through to a purchase

29th Nov 2021
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When we talk about retail channel shift, the emphasis is usually on the difference between a physical shop and an e-commerce channel. But the relationship between the customer and brand has changed in a far more complex and fundamental way.

Let me give an example. When I was younger, I had a part-time weekend job. Once my pay arrived I would go shopping in person at fashion brands like AllSaints. The in-store range changed quite often, so to browse it usually meant visiting a shop and taking a look at what’s new. AllSaints eventually launched a website and e-commerce offer, but (in my opinion) this never really matched the experience of browsing in a store.

Now contrast how my daughter will shop at PLT, Missguided or Boohoo. She doesn't wait until she has money before visiting a shop to browse what they have. She can check what they are offering 24/7. Anything she likes goes into her wish list. When she has the cash available then some of the items in her wish list can be ordered. It’s instant.

This is an enormous change in the way that a retail brand, especially in an area like fashion, interacts with the customer. The customer is indicating intent before they ever make a purchase. The customer has almost no loyalty to a specific brand or individual shop because they have a wish list for all the brands they like. Just curating the wish list to remove items after a change of mind is quite a task itself.

When you add all the buy-now-pay-later options then this gets even more complex. Services like Klarna and Clearpay offer customers the ability to order items right now - without the need to pay anything. These services allow the customer to schedule payments in the future - so a £45 pair of boots can be paid for by scheduling £15 a month for the next three months.

In this modern retail environment the customer doesn’t need the cash immediately and they have an almost infinite choice of products to choose from. Shein adds around 6,000 new items to their range every single day.

In this kind of retail environment, one of the biggest problems for the brands is getting their new products in front of customers. Influencers can help, but if just one brand is adding thousands of new items daily then imagine how many items you need to scroll through to stay on top of your favourite five or six brands.

That’s why I believe the wish list is so important. Back when I was a teenage fashion shopper I could only choose from the limited range on offer at my local shop - and I would only go there if I had some cash to spend. Now shoppers don’t always need the cash available and they are often indicating what they are interested in before making a purchase.

Brands need to be smart. Learn how to use this intent to purchase and turn it into actual purchases. In some cases a personalised offer may work. Other customers may respond to a warning that the item is about to be discontinued. These retail brands need to use predictive analytics to figure out what their customers are liking, when they usually purchase, and what are the triggers that move them from the wish list to a purchase?

Retail has changed, but there are now more opportunities to get closer to customers - you know more about their preferences than ever before.

Let me know what you think about the changing ways that retail customers can be convinced to move from intent to purchase. Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

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