Personal just isn’t personal enough: Online vs In-Store Shopping

Published: 15 April 2015

When will bricks and mortar retailers truly catch up with their online siblings and tailor the experience to feel seamless and consistent with the brand overall?  We’re all accustomed to retailers welcoming us by name, making a suggestion or two of what we might like, or creepily following us on our online journey to taunt us with ads of items we viewed several sessions ago that are out of stock – or worse, have already purchased!

In-store life is much the same as it ever was with the exception of a handful of connected stores and tests that blend digital and physical experiences.  Recent research by DigitasLBi found that 72% of consumers use their smartphone in-store and 42% make use of in-store multimedia shopping aids that record in-store movements, purchases and lend a hand to email follow ups.  We shoppers no longer expect to visit a store simply to make a purchase. Today we take it for granted that online services will be in-store - and we expect experiences as exciting, useful and personal as the online shopping experience itself.

There is a need for in-store mechanisms to enhance the customer experience and make it more personal and relevant. The risk for retailers is that the difference in feel between the online and the in-store shopping experience becomes significant and this could impact performance in both locations as customers become confused, or alienated from the brand because of conflicting shopping experiences. 

The innovative Technology to make these advances is available and they are no longer transactional activities.  Social media can be used in a variety of intricate ways;   Instead of just broadcasting offers, let your fans/followers influence which offers go live in store – having involvement in the game increases the likelihood of customers turning up and also sharing the information with their broader social networks [Source: Gideon Lask, CEO of Buyapowa in Drapers Record article – ‘Social media can be a retailer’s friend in store as well as online’).

So the best of the high street are delivering a connected customer experience and delivering growth both online and in-store. Clearly, connecting digital and physical experiences, whether through store theatre or day-to-day shopper experience is a race retailers can't opt out of.

Newly-crowned ‘Retailer of the Year’ Ted Baker (Retail Week Awards 2015) is using a variety of social platforms to promote its SS15 collection.  Instagram being one example - images are uploaded daily and can be altered by followers to reveal clues and messages, these in turn lead to prizes and offers which encourage customers into its stores.  Ted Baker also reported a 65% increase in online sales Christmas 2015 and attributes its success to aligning the customer experience regardless of channel.

So if ensuring the experience looks and feels the same is key then the next step will be to further use technology to enhance the customer experience both online and in-store.  From a talent perspective there are implications for future hires.  An increase in roles with an insight and customer-experience focus is already apparent.  The implications will be much more significant as the lines between channels and functional specialisms become more blurred.  Retailers need to know more about what customers desire and be able to swiftly tailor the offer to fit – this will impact the whole retail cycle from the marketing of product to the ease of purchase and receipt.

Tamsin Terry-Lush is a Principal Recruitment Consultant in the Berwick Partners Retail Practice

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