Opinion

Going from brick to omni-channel: A retail reality

“Brands have to touch every step of the customer journey and online shopping must be part of a 360° digital environment that fully integrates new digital tools into all aspects of the ‘traditional’ business model.”

By Íñigo Pastor

We are living through a true digital disruption, and shopping center and outlet operators must evolve and innovate to integrate new technologies within traditional channels. Retail operators must satisfy their customers’ needs by letting them connect with brands at any time through any channel, while also optimizing their interaction with the brands. This means connecting with your most important customer: the omni-channel shopper.

E-commerce retail turnover in Europe has grown steadily in recent years (15% annually) and sales are expected to total €540 billion in 2016 and €609 billion in 2017, according to figures in a recent study by Forbes Insights and EY. These forecasts are creating new realities for operators and retailers because the fact is that digital doesn’t just drive e-commerce, it gets people into shopping centers and confirms that operators must change their business models as understood until now and evolve their strategies “from brick to omni-channel.” To that end, implementing in-shopping center and in-store digital technologies has been increasingly important in the retail sector and the evolution involves much more than implementing an e-commerce platform. Brands have to touch every step of the customer journey and online shopping must be part of a 360° digital environment that fully integrates new digital tools into all aspects of the “traditional” business model.

Today, shoppers access products and brands through infinite routes. Multiple forms of contact are available—including physical stores and any digital touch point: websites, apps, Wi-Fi, loyalty programs, etc.—which means there are as many customer journeys as shoppers and it is necessary to identify all the channels and factors that contribute to a purchase decision. In this context, operators have to change the way they think about omni-channel shoppers and what their shopping behavior means for the overall business.

Now they face the challenge of providing brands with a thorough analysis of data collected through different touch points with the brand, as well as identifying each customer’s preferences, tastes, wishes, and needs. This allows brands to offer the right product to the right customer in the right place and at the right time.

In addition, consumers increasingly demand a “one-customer, one-company” experience. According to different research, two in three shoppers who tried to find information within a store say they couldn’t find what they needed and 71% of in-store shoppers who use smartphones for online research say their device has become more important to their in-store experience. Implementing technological tools in management systems—through omniCRM platforms and in physical stores through geolocation systems, for instance—makes it possible to use contextual and real-time marketing to create an engaging customer experience that gives the consumer autonomy in selecting the relevant communications they are willing to receive. This behavior is the basis for the real evolution we are experiencing in our sector, going from point-of-sale to omni-channel sales and marketing strategies.

In summary, the main objective is to create a seamless customer experience while establishing brand loyalty and driving sales for long-term success. To that end, we need a perfect merger of physical and digital channels in order to grow revenues, lower costs, and improve service levels to customers. The integration requires operators and retailers the whole realignment of the operating model in terms of management structure, processes, systems, and performance measurement, as well as in terms of the impact of the omni-channel strategy on the P&L.

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