Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Omnipresence, the new table stakes in retail

By Melissa Minkow, Director, Retail Strategy, CI&T

The last couple of years have massively shifted shopping behaviours, with all generations now receptive to the speed and ease of online shopping. Above anything else, consumers want convenience – no stock outs, easy payment without queues, and fast delivery. Omnichannel offerings have become table stakes, as customers look to fulfil their needs in the most frictionless way possible. Retailers that are unable to meet this demand risk getting left behind, while retailers ahead of the curve are likely to be rewarded with unwavering customer loyalty.

However, all of this is becoming more difficult in the face of rising inflation, and continued supply chain disruption. Now, retailers must adapt their strategies even further – moving from omnichannel, to omnipresence. Retailers need to make themselves available as much as possible to meet consumers’ needs and wants any time – whether it’s direct-to-consumer (DTC), or across third-party platforms.

How can retailers achieve this? Here are four ways in which retailers can prioritise customer convenience the most.

1. Fearless cannibalization

Whether we are talking brick and mortar, or ecommerce, retailers should be increasingly open to the idea of being a part of one giant store. This doesn’t just refer to these two umbrellas operating side by side. Consumers now expect access to retailers in more ways. The best way to deliver on this expectation is to embrace partnerships and marketplace arrangements that align with the brand’s values and positioning.

This requires a fearless attitude regarding cannibalization. In the UK, we’re already seeing this manifest in the form of new online marketplaces being launched by retailers like Debenhams and John Lewis. Marks & Spencer has also recently added third party fashion brands as a way of “turbocharging” growth and appealing to a wider customer base. Inserting themselves into new environments, and increasingly being seen as working together rather than against each other, are key ways retailers can stay ahead of the ever-increasing demands of ecommerce.

2. App-driven appeal

More than two in five (41%) consumers prefer shopping via retailers’ apps, and over a third (35%) on their mobile sites, according to our recent research. This acknowledged preference for retailer apps signals a major shift in consumer behaviour and can be recognised as a win for retailers as they have been fighting to take up space on consumers’ home screens. Consumers showing a readiness to meet them there signifies a notable retail moment, and retailers must continue to focus their presence in this space.

For consumers, using retailer apps has its advantages. Being offered personalised, exclusive, in app-only deals make the shopping experience that much more exciting and enjoyable, leaving the consumers coming back for more. Their usage also allows retailers to keep track of their browsing history and use this data to enhance consumers’ shopping experience even further the next time they interact with the brand. This is key to locking in customer loyalty as their needs continue to be met each time. Retailers that get this right will benefit from being consumers’ first choice.

3. Exclusivity is key

To accommodate the needs of different customer bases, retailers must have real knowledge and understanding of their preferences. This can only be obtained by collecting data, and lots of it. Data is the new currency in retail and it’s just as valuable as the cash consumers are spending, given its rich insights into customer behaviour. With this in mind, brands need to look for innovative ways to incentivise consumers to share as much personal, relevant information as possible.

One way for retailers to encourage shoppers to ‘opt in’ to data sharing is by offering exclusive perks in return for data on how often they shop there, their preferred brands within the retailer, and even colour palette preferences. The more information the customer is willing to provide, the more access they’d have to different things – for example, customised web pages, different promotion schemes compared to others, or quicker delivery. Data is fast becoming the holy grail as it’s increasingly being regulated, so the less available it is to retailers, the more they need to find creative ways to get it from consumers.

4: Personalisation pays

Retailers can go a step further to truly accommodate customers, via personalisation. Retailers must work to fine-tune the connection between their omnichannel offerings so that each customer feels the whole path to purchase was designed for that precise journey.

Highly personalised customer experiences today mean providing all the options possible to keep it convenient. Crucial to this, but a point often overlooked, is the need to provide 1:1 customer service. Creating direct lines of communication between brands and consumers to ask questions, resolve issues, and receive suggestions regarding the specific products and services they’re looking into for their individual needs is a crucial part of personalising the journey. For example, if email is the chosen direct line of communication, brands must ensure responses are rapid and directly address the customer’s query. If it’s texting or WhatsApp, brands should keep correspondence to inquiries and recommendations that are initiated by the customer, rather than using their number to mass blast offers. Appealing to the consumer doesn’t always need to be innovative or complicated – the most memorable retail experiences usually come from those that are the most straightforward.

5: Convenience takes precedence

When it comes to shopping and the customer experience, convenience will always be valued highly. Consumers want to be able to pick up what they need quickly, and for the transaction to require as little effort as possible. In other words, retail experiences that fit into a consumer’s lifestyle like a puzzle piece is what will keep them coming back for more.

This is the reason why retailers want in on true omnipresence. Inserting themselves into as many environments as possible, offering consumers everything they desire through a connected retail experience, and ensuring the most frictionless path-to-purchase will solidify their customer relationships. Whether it’s via a marketplace, an app, or by offering highly personalised customer experiences, providing all the options possible to accommodate customers should be a number one priority.