In a world where technology is replacing human practices, there’s pressure on brick-and-mortar retailers to up their game and deliver products that are easily accessible, easy to navigate, and consistent across multiple points of purchase. And though there is still extreme value to face-to-face sales, these unavoidable technology changes prove to be daunting for many retailers. Read on to learn about the changing retail landscape and what can be done to overcome these challenges. 

An Omni-channel Retail World

People still enjoy shopping at physical locations for the experience. Look at Apple stores for example. Customers would rather come into the store, talk with an expert, and try the device out themselves. But although brick-and-mortar locations are still necessary, technology has opened the door for an essential multi-channel world for retailers. According to a 2015 study by IDC, omni-channel shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel.

People are shopping differently. Mom-and-pop shops are becoming fewer and local retailers are trying to keep their head above water in this ever-changing environment. More than ever, people are comparing prices online and trying products for themselves in the store. They are using online coupons via email and apps, checking out the page’s social media feed, and experiencing multiple touch points during their purchase journey. The person looking for a pair of running shoes probably won’t blindly go to the sporting goods store and immediately purchase. He or she will likely do their online research, read reviews, and ask their friends. They’ll then try on in-store, then find the best deal online all before ordering. It’s a longer purchase journey that hits multiple touchpoints.

Omni-channel really means closing the gap between multiple points of purchase and creating a seamless experience across all channels. It’s not enough to have top-notch in-store customer service anymore. Once retailers accept the fact that technology is affecting the way people shop, they will realize they must market their products and services differently.

The first technology expectation is marrying the in-store and online shopping experience. Because online is used as a research tool, it’s important to create top-of-mind awareness for your store as well as a seamless shopping experience. Maybe you create the ability to reserve online and pickup in the store. Or perhaps you have an online chat service for those who have questions about your products or services. Create more touch points and examine those touch points to ensure they are of value. The more ways your customer can purchase, the more exposure they will have to your retail store. And the more likely they will be to purchase from you. 

The second technology change is marrying mobile with your retail business. If the future of retail is modeling the buying patterns of Millennials and Generation Z, mobile must be a part of retailers’ marketing plan. This means reaching your customers where they are when they’re ready to buy. Also keeping in mind whatever device they may be using. It’s important to utilize technologies such as apps and social media. With the way customers shop rapidly evolving, social media plays a vital role in influencing buying decisions. PwC reported nearly half (45%) of digital buyers worldwide said that reading reviews, comments and feedback on social media influenced their digital shopping behavior. It’s pretty simple, for your store to be relevant, you must have some social media presence.

Apps are also a driving force in the industry right now and in the future. Retail apps allow customers to navigate through products easier than going to a website. They are made specifically for mobile shoppers and will sometimes even have perks and discounts for purchasing via the app. Putting the purchasing power in the customer’s hands and making your products readily available is the key to creating a seamless buying experience.

It’s Really Not So Scary

There are products and services that ease the daunting nature of these tech changes. Many retailers don’t realize their need for an organizational structure until they hear and see for themselves how it can revolutionize their business. One of these structures is a customer data platform (CDP). The first way to overcome the unmanageable amount of data from multiple points of purchase is combining all your purchaser’s information into one place. A customer data platform integrates with leading data providers and web technologies to retrieve and combine data from all source points (both online and offline). This allows you to see a full view of your customer and make smart marketing decisions.

Let’s say you are a retailer that has multiple purchase-points such as in-store, online, and catalog purchases. Additionally, you acquire people’s information through social media, event collection, and marketing emails. It’s easy to let this plethora of information just fall through the cracks. With a customer data platform, you are able to combine all the gathered information from multiple source systems into one, easy-to-navigate database. So not only does it combine all your customer and prospect information, you can now market differently to those people, creating more engagement and more revenue!

The ever-changing retail environment doesn’t have to be scary, you just need the right tools to make it successful! Investing in a CDP will allow you to easily see who your prospects and customers are. It will enable you to make smart marketing decisions so you can target people where they are interacting most.

Ascent360 is a leading Customer Data Platform provider.  Contact us to learn how we can help your company grow revenue through our marketing software.