Growth prospects for integrated customer experiences are poised to rise and swift, successful transitions to omnichannel dialogs between retailers and consumers could likely determine survival of the fittest.
And most likely, that dialog (and hopefully conversions) will occur on a mobile device. Mobile commerce is pegged to garner 45 percent of total e-commerce by 2020, reaching $284 billion in sales, according to a BI Intelligence report.
The journey there is expected to be challenging as retail’s landscape has evolved into a battlefield of pure-play, bricks-and-clicks and brick-and-mortar brands. Success hinges on the adoption of emerging technologies and strategic customer communication. “Faced with a plethora of choices and communications, consumers tend to fall back on the limited set of brands that have made it through the wilderness of messages,” according to researchers at McKinsey & Co. Today, retailers are tasked with the challenge of cleverly navigating through this wilderness to connect to customers in a way that is both personal and profitable.
Omnichannel retailing underscores engagement at all levels: in-store, online, mobile and social media. Branding Brand, the largest retail app and mobile commerce platform, envisions a future led by real-time commerce — fueled by a seamless shopping experience.
“Retailers must connect all touch points in the buying journey,” a cyclical process that integrates personalization, engagement, data gathering, observation and the development of customer and associate apps, noted researchers at Branding Brand. “Even if a customer starts and ends the buying process in the same channel, there are many touch points in between when they’re researching and comparing products,” they observed.
And while those touch points are increasingly done online and via apps, physical stores still have a vital role to play. Amid store closings at The Limited, Macy’s, Office Depot, CVS and Wet Seal, there is a concurrent resurgence of brick-and-mortar store openings for digitally native pure-play brands — the likes of Amazon, Modcloth and Rent the Runway — that are ahead of the curve in their customer experience curation.
“Being able to touch and feel products at physical stores often makes customers more comfortable buying apparel and accessories. Storefronts also act as advertisements and can boost the prestige associated with a brand,” CB Insights said in a separate report.
Meanwhile, retail mobile activity has become a preferred form of engagement, with 74 percent of customers shopping in-app while waiting in store lines, according to Branding Brand. Though only 21 percent of smartphone owners had a range of three to five retail apps on their device as reported in an October 2015 comScore survey, vast improvements in the mobile sector allude to a surge of growth. “Advances in smartphone technologies, upgraded mobile networks and mobile-specific digital tools and platforms are making both mobile commerce and location-based services a reality. This, in turn, enables brands and consumers to engage with one another anytime, anywhere,” said researchers in a report from Deloitte.
Effectively, consumers now anticipate the conveniences and amenities of real-time communication, with most expecting to use shopping apps for purchasing products, tracking orders, earning rewards, accessing or saving coupons and browsing products. “Individualization means engaging in real-time by listening, measuring, assessing and addressing intent across every enterprise touch point,” Branding Brand stated. This practice marks the shift from transactional commerce to “conversational commerce.”