Unified commerce: Retail survival through complete personalization

retail survival with unified commerce
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The future is not fully digital or purely physical, it will be a complex hybrid that retailers are witnessing as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to completely integrate their venues with online data collection. This mixed-channel future will allow retailers to transform and achieve stronger relationships with their customers through unified commerce.

“Physical retail is at a crossroads. YES, you need to embrace technology. But this technology must embrace your customers. They demand a highly personalized shopping experience as standard.”

Sir Terry Leahy; British Retail Thought Leader

In this blog, we are going to take a focused look at the power of personalization in retail, the expectations of everyday customers, and how unified commerce will be the main driver.

The following statistics have been collected by Purple, from 3 global markets, with 1500 participants.

What is unified commerce?

The next evolutionary step of omnichannel marketing, unified commerce is a strategy that unlocks the full potential of all retailer channels, both online and offline, as it provides an entirely holistic view of all revenue streams, provides data insights like never before, and effectively informs offline business decisions which until now you could only achieve online.

The data insights available to retailers will grow over time, resulting in increased accuracy when forecasting future performance, and ultimately better customer experiences in all regions.

The unfolding future of retail shopping

The decline in main street stores over the past few years has come from poor differentiation and uncompetitive customer propositions meaning shoppers are constantly looking for businesses that provide personalized experiences. Hybrid business models which look to embrace data from all channels are able to deliver personalization in new and exciting ways, boosting them ahead of the adoption curve!

Consumers prefer shopping in-store

Despite having gained a decade’s worth of ground within a few years, the growth of e-commerce adoption has been heavily driven by the pandemic, meaning shoppers had little to no alternative for where to shop. Since the “return to normal” we have found that physical stores remain the primary choice for shoppers across all retail sectors.

17.6% of participants prefer shopping in-store only (offline)

7.1% of participants prefer shopping online only (e-commerce)

75.3% of participants embrace both online and offline channels

For a more granular view, we can also break down these survey insights into retail sectors. In our latest survey we asked participants how they chose to shop in different retail locations over the past 12 months:

Grocery retail – 85% physical vs 55% online

Fashion & Apparel – 67% physical vs 64.5% online

Big Box – 63% physical vs 55% online

Despite physical retail being the prominent shopping destination, why is the split so close? One word, personalization.

Physical stores are struggling to meet expectations

While consumers have firm confidence in retailers knowing what shoppers are looking for, when we look at this from an online vs offline perspective, 76% of people believe online retailers know what they want, while only 64% think physical stores do. So why are a 3rd of people dissatisfied with their in-store experience?

Additional data collected from our survey shows that 88% of respondents think things can be done to improve physical stores’ relevancy in the modern era and 4 out of 5 people who believe that things could be improved said that some form of technology adoption is the way to go.

Consumer expectations

84.4% of consumers believe that in order for physical stores to survive, they need to make it all about customer experience.

With all of the data available to businesses that come with utilizing online channels, creating personalized experiences and tailoring promotions is easier than ever. Not only this but having a personalized experience has become the main driver of consumer expectations across all sectors, making it a necessity to survive and thrive.

Promote relevant products as consumers shop

Being followed around by the same online advert for that t-shirt you accidentally clicked on once? We’ve all been there. It’s a classic example of in-your-face marketing that doesn’t encourage users to make a purchase but has the opposite effect and can damage customer loyalty. 

Timing is critical when trying to influence consumers, and there’s no better time than when they’re in-store!

We asked our participants how confident they were in retailers to suggest relevant products when shopping online and in-store:

16.2% of consumers feel retailers can promote relevant products in-store 

28.7% of respondents feel online retail channels can suggest relevant products

47.2% of consumers believe that retailers can provide relevant suggestions across online and offline channels

8.0% feel that the retailer never suggests relevant products 

What’s the most important thing for retailers to provide in-store?

As retailers make the shift away from omnichannel marketing and begin to adopt the unified commerce strategy it’s critical that the needs of consumers are being listened to and taken into consideration when connecting all customer touchpoints.

Loyalty schemes

In our survey, we discovered that 68.9% of consumers want retailers to promote loyalty schemes and 64.5% want to receive offers when in-store. This insight is one that can massively benefit all types of retail venues to increase their basket size and encourage repeat visits.

Understanding individuals

No matter the message, consumers want to feel as if they have special treatment. We found that 64% of consumers want retailers to take the time to understand their needs (and right now is a unique opportunity for businesses to diversify how staff engages visitors and personalize experiences). Additionally, we saw that 55% want their in-store experiences to be personalized, and the main way to achieve this is through digital integration.

Real-time feedback

Feedback for any organization is critical for growth and to provide a better experience. Our survey found that 47.5% of consumers believe surveys should be delivered in real time for retailers to understand how the experience is going. The main way to achieve this is by utilizing existing free WiFi networks (which 44.5% of respondents believe is a necessity for a positive in-store experience) and location-based messaging.

What are some examples of valuable, and real-time feedback?

Safety – 46.4% of our survey respondents believe that it’s vital for retail venues to be safe and easy to navigate

Relevance of products – 46% of respondents believe retailers must listen to customers to offer what they need

Accuracy of personalization -37.8% feel that personalizing the customer experience is vital to improving in-store experiences and in order to continually get this right feedback is essential.

What can retailers do to stay relevant?

As the main street environment becomes increasingly competitive after the shift to unified commerce it’s important for retailers to keep brand relevance a priority. Here we’ll take a look at the ways consumers feel retailers can achieve this.

Keep your efforts personalized

We already know that consumers value personalization, but they also know how important it is to keep businesses relevant and top of mind. 41.2% of survey respondents believe that improving personalized services such as text messages and emails while in-store with specific information about products will keep retail stores relevant

Adopt, adopt, adopt

While we already know WiFi is vital to the customer experience (28.3% of consumers feel that connectivity through free WiFi is very important) we found that 30.1% of respondents recognize the adoption of Artificial Intelligence enables retailers to provide a unique experience while shopping.

Technological solutions which have real-world applications are becoming increasingly popular, however with this rapid growth, navigating these solutions and investing in the right options can become a daunting task.

Additionally, 23.9% of respondents believe augmented reality should be utilized by retailers to differentiate themselves from other main street competitors.

“Take my data!” Personal information for personalization

56.4% of survey respondents would provide their email address in exchange for a personalized experience, and 73.3% would increase their brand loyalty if businesses rewarded them for visiting.

“Customers are seeking a sense of belonging, unlike anything you have offered to them before.”

Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of Purple

The power of personalization cannot be overstated, but neither can the influence of consumer data. In today’s climate, consumers know that their data is valuable and that they must trade their information to gain relevant offers or have a personalized experience.

Make it all about customer experience!

85% of consumers believe that brick and mortar fashion stores will continue to exist but 84% say physical stores need to make it all about customer experience.

Here we’ll take a look at retailers that adopted Purple’s WiFi solution and the success that has been achieved in delivering new, personalized experiences.

Avanti: UK-based train operator

Avanti West Coast, a UK-based train operator, leveraged Purple to enhance their onboard passenger experience. By providing free WiFi and capturing valuable data, Avanti West Coast could better understand their passengers’ needs and preferences. This data-driven approach led to more effective marketing and service improvements, ultimately resulting in higher customer satisfaction and engagement. The case study notes that this enhanced passenger experience and the insights gained helped demonstrate a clear ROI, as customer loyalty and occupancy rates increased.

Walmart Canada: Big box retailer

With Purple’s WiFi solution installed in over 400 stores, Walmart Canada was able to provide visitors with a digitally inclusive experience that saw 120 million+ visits over a one-year period, providing valuable information about footfall across their nationwide network.

You have the proof, now make the change!

It’s clear that in order for retailers to continue surviving and thrive in the long run, customers’ expectations must be listened to, acted upon, and adapted to continually differentiate from competitors.

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