As retail shopping experiences adapt and change, so must retailers’ interactions with their customers. Technology changes rapidly, and retailers need their customer experience programmes to keep up.
Our journeys to purchase aren’t always linear. TV ads, conversations with friends, online reviews and in-store displays may all contribute to us making a purchase in-store.
Technology has changed the way we shop. Retailers need to use technology to support the way we shop if they want to encourage loyalty from their customers.
In recent research we commissioned with Kantar TNS (The Future of Retail), we asked over 3000 people across six countries about their attitudes to retail. We found that customers are more than willing to share their personal data with retailers - as long as the process is transparent and they benefit from personalised offers.
We also found that, despite the prevalence of smartphones, consumers still want physical loyalty cards and coupons sent through the mail. Consumers want a shopping experience that fits around their own shopping habits and preferences. If they’re forced to adapt to the store’s idea of an ideal shopping experience, they might not be inclined to shop there frequently.
Data for rewards
Out of the six nations in the study (UK, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and Poland) it’s UK shoppers who are generally receptive to sharing personal data. But they want this to be a reciprocal relationship.
Retailers can use their data, as long as they’re honest and open about why they need it and what they’ll use it for. Forty-five percent of British shoppers surveyed were open to retailers accessing their personal data, but only if the retailers used that data to develop personalised rewards.
In the UK, it was younger shoppers who were most willing to share their data for rewards (62%), while the eldest age group weren’t as willing (32%).
Italian shoppers were the most interested in the exchange – 56% of them were willing to exchange personal data for tailored rewards – but German respondents to the survey were the least open to retailers accessing their personal data, with 34% saying that they were interested.
In total, 88% of respondents said that they wanted to be rewarded to allow retailers to use their personal data for marketing reasons. Transparency is still a crucial factor, with 90% wanting to see what kind of data the retailer is collecting, and 92% saying it’s important for them to know how their data is being used by retailers.
Personal data gives retailers exceptional insight into what individuals want and what will encourage them to buy.
Our attitudes to mobile
For retailers, using beacons to identify and target shoppers who are in and around the store may seem like a no-brainer, but our research showed that attitudes are still mixed.
Fifty-five percent of respondents were happy to receive real-time personalised offers while in-store. So while it’s clear that tracking and targeting customer’s in-store is popular, there’s a significant resistance to it as well. It’s important for retailers to use some kind of opt-in system so that customers who don’t wish to be tracked are left in peace (otherwise a system which benefits many may alienate almost as many people).
Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they would be more inclined to consider real-time personalised offers sent to them while they were near a store, but younger consumers were much more interested in the idea (46% of 18-24 year-olds).
Personalised offers are popular with consumers, but for many, this isn’t at the price of their privacy. Developing a system where people can opt-in to receiving these messages ensures that only the most receptive shoppers will be targeted.
Retailers can also use mobile technology to enhance in-store navigation. Forty-five percent of respondents would consider using in-store navigation to find their way to desired products. Men are a lot more receptive to this (54%) than women (36%). Some shoppers may be more reluctant to ask for help than others. Mobile navigation allows these people to find their way around easily rather than give up and go somewhere else.
The false physical vs online division
Some retailers still think in terms of how their physical stores compare to their online offerings, but for the customer they both form part of their overall experience. “Should I go to the shop or buy it online?” isn’t something people usually consider. They just pick the option that’s the most convenient for them.
Our research found that a positive in-store shopping experience not only encouraged consumers to return the store (44%) but also encouraged more than a quarter (28%) to order online from the retailer.
This also worked in reverse. A positive online shopping experience encouraged 30% of respondents to visit the physical store for more purchases.
There’s been a lot of discussion about customers doing their research online before shopping in-store or digitally, but we’ve found that this also works both ways. Sixty percent of consumers who purchased electronic goods said that they did online or in-store research, only to purchase the item via the opposite method.
As technology evolves, so do customer’s habits. People expect to be able to follow their own patterns of researching and buying. They expect retailers to make the shopping experience seamless.
Retailers that adapt their practices, policies and loyalty programmes to meet consumer behaviour will see greater success than those determined to force shoppers down the ‘right’ path to purchase for them. Thriving retailers are adaptive to their customer’s needs.
They’re the ones using data to predict how consumer buying habits will change in the next 10 years, instead of asking what they can do to make people behave in certain ways now.
About Lauren Hogg
Lauren Hogg is the UK Marketing Manager at Comarch, a global software manufacturer, integrator and IT business solutions provider serving large enterprises. Specialising in traditional and digital B2B marketing in loyalty, CRM and telecommunications, Lauren is an experienced marketer with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry.