During a trip to a fashion retailer in 2017, a customer walked in, picked out a new shirt and a matching pair of shoes, paid with cash, pocketed a paper receipt and left. A retailer’s relationship with that customer was terminated as soon as they left the shop. Sometimes they remembered to scan their plastic loyalty card, but more often than not this had been forgotten at home, shoved in an old wallet. 

Just five years later, the shopping experience has been transformed by the rise in popularity of contactless payments. Among other things, the change has opened the door to more sophisticated and varied marketing channels which allow retailers to take their relationships with shoppers to the next level. 

Today, customers have picked a shirt before stepping foot in-store thanks to a targeted ad, chosen new shoes after watching an engaging reel on instagram, and tapped their card and received a digital receipt directly into their phone – completely streamlining the customer experience. 

Advancements in retail technology have come thick and fast over the last five years and retail marketers are having to adapt to remain competitive. So, what can you do to ensure your omnichannel marketing strategy is watertight?

1. Know your customer

In an increasingly digital world, businesses need to get well acquainted with their customers to understand how to deliver on — or exceed — their expectations. A thorough analysis of market and data trends is no longer a nice-to-have but an imperative in a world where everyone from the business owner next door to your biggest competitor has cottoned on to this power.

For example, café owners live and breathe their individual customer preferences but what does the data show about the changes in nature? Harnessing trends in data across months and seasons, as well as broader data around the changing demographics in the area surrounding the café could help businesses understand when to change milk types based on changing consumer tastes, or introduce new products before their own customers ask for them. Not only does recognising data trends positively impact customer service, but you will also reap a higher return on investment.

2. Ditch the paper

Despite digitisation following an upward curve way before the pandemic, many companies still use paper in everyday processes without even noticing. Whether for printing invoices, staff rosters or paper receipts, businesses can find a digital alternative for virtually any paper-based task. Not only does moving towards a 100% digital environment reduce your company’s impact on the environment, it can also unlock a new digital channel to engage customers and capture valuable customer data.

3. Go contactless

When it comes to repeat customers, convenience is key. Your customers are carrying less on them than ever before. For men, a large portion don’t even carry a physical wallet anymore. And just a couple of years ago women wouldn’t blink at carrying a large handbag to the shops, which usually held a large purse, and the large purse usually contained paper money, paper receipts and plastic loyalty cards in equal parts. 

Today, handbags (and pockets) are being designed to fit a standard-sized smartphone and nothing more, because customers have flocked to contactless technology for their purchasing needs. With this insight in mind, businesses should feel empowered to remove all friction from the customer journey from start to finish by introducing a mobile-first approach. By accepting contactless payments, using a digital loyalty program and providing digital receipts at the point of sale, marketers will not only ensure their customers’ transactions are as streamlined as possible, but they will also be able to use these transactional insights to inform their marketing strategies.

4. Get the balance right

Where digital and physical consumer experiences were previously separate entities, the two are increasingly becoming intertwined. Take brick-and-mortar stores for example, although many will have been pure-play physical retail outlets before the pandemic, global lockdowns accelerated a shift online to some degree. Whether this took the form of an e-commerce outlet or simply more targeted social media ads to draw customers in, it will have a lasting impact on the business path they choose to take today.

The critical consideration here is balance. Make sure you take the time to properly reassess your marketing strategy in an increasingly dynamic environment and ensure you have given equal consideration to both online and in-store experiences to help drive purchase decisions.

5. Prioritise your customer post-purchase

The biggest mistake is thinking the customer experience ends at the check-out. In fact, this should be the start of another journey. At the point of sale, you can gather information on what your customer buys most frequently, when they make their purchases, their average cart costs and even their environmental preferences. 

For example, using insights on a customer that has recently paid for new white sneakers, you can re-engage them via email, SMS, or social media to offer them protectant or cleaning solutions – maybe at a discount – to help add value and convert them to repeat customers. The opportunities to build loyalty are truly endless.

The digital world is already a goldmine of possibilities for marketers and business owners alike, and with innovations in the space gaining momentum still, it looks like this is only the tip of the iceberg.  By harnessing data, ditching paper, and going contactless, retailers will be able to set the foundations for a well-balanced and convenient customer experience that extends far beyond the shop floor and into the future.

Jude Blankfield is chief of staff & head of marketing at Slyp.