The pandemic has forever changed shopping habits with many consumers spending more time online, both planning and eventually carrying out their purchases. Yet, this increased demand in digital platforms and enhanced overall customer experiences has created an opportunity to reinvigorate a part of retail that has long remained unchanged – the in-store customer experience. While most shopping decisions are made online, the large majority of sales still happen in store. In fact, Australia Post is predicting that by the end of 2020, online spend will still account for only 15% of the total retail market. 

It is no longer enough for retailers to provide a somewhat superficial customer experience. In a post-COVID world, the journey needs to go deeper by first engaging with customers on their smartphones, offering relevant promotions, and then driving foot traffic to physical stores. Armed with the right data, many retailers are encouraging customers to save time and ‘window browse’ before they even step foot in the store. The secret to then unlocking a superior in-store experience is easier than you might think, with the key being providing staff with data and insights into customers’ preferences, habits and purchasing histories. 

Personalising the customer journey 

Data provides actionable insights into consumer habits that in-person interactions often lack. By incorporating a digital platform like ShopFully that drives customers back in-store, retailers are able to take complete advantage of all that data has to offer. Retailers and their staff can see the promotions that are working and those that are not performing, as well as the advertisements that are generating footfall traffic. If retail assistants are provided with data into what customers have previously viewed, placed in their shopping carts or on their wish-lists for instance, retailers can revolutionise the in-store shopping experience. Retailers can also feel comfortable knowing that their sales assistants are equipped with the data and knowledge to provide more engaging and relevant customer interactions. Data is increasingly being used to create a more personalised online experience in an attempt to mimic the human element of in-store experiences. I would argue that it is now time for bricks and mortar stores to integrate the same positive key features of online shopping, and incorporate data insights to hyper personalise the in-store experience.

Loyal to the experience 

While a seamless digital customer experience can help retain customers, it is the in-store experience that has the potential to drive customers’ loyalty for life. Customers will often refer back to memories of a store as well as the sensations they felt throughout. For instance, the ‘touch and feel’ of products and seeing something in person rather than the fleeting experience they are used to through various digital platforms. While the sensations provided by actual products as well as the store’s physical setup contribute to the overall customer’s experience, it is the personalised interaction a shopper receives that creates a magnetic moment they will keep returning to. Retailers are able to provide this experience more seamlessly through the integration of data from customers’ previous interactions with the business whether that be physical or digital. 

The reality is that digital and physical worlds are increasingly colliding and those retailers who do not take this opportunity to enhance their in-store experience, risk the doomsday predictions of Australian retailers ‘shutting shop’ coming true. By intelligently leveraging data early on in the customer journey, retailers can then provide a more tailored experience and drive consumers back into brick and mortar stores. While a seamless digital customer experience remains vital, it is in-person interactions that will build trust and create everlasting memories and stickiness with customers now and into the next decade. 

Dean Vocisano is country manager for Australia at ShopFully