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E-commerce vs bricks & mortar, why customer experience can win the retail war

The customer is king, and they have high expectations of their retail customer experience!  

Traditional bricks and mortar trading has been in a steady decline over recent years exasperated by the pandemic which saw footfall disappear overnight and online retailers (and their delivery partners) experience exponential growth.   

 Stalwarts of our town centres crashed out in spectacular style, victims of how our consumer habits have changed and the need to keep innovating. The mothership of e-commerce, Amazon saw their UK sales rise by 51% in 2020, and their gross profit over the 12 months to March 2021 increase by nearly 40% year on year.  

 Recent ONS figures show online retail spending value of 26.7% in June 2021, this represented a fall from 28.4% in May 2021 due to restrictions lifting. In comparison, online retail spending in February 2020 (pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic) equated to only 19.9%. 

 It is clear that the competition for our custom is intense and retailers will need to be creative to entice us back into the streets and off our devices, as we shun the high street and choose to work, live, shop and be entertained in our own homes.  

How can we entice customers back into a bricks and mortar retail experience effectively? 

 Peter Robinson believes Experiential Retail or Retail Theatre has a key part to play. In his recent article he commented: 

  “It’s all about using technology to enhance the customer shopping experience and get people back to high streets and talking about these high streets through social media. Great customer service is very important. Combine this with technology and you have in my opinion a winning combination. High impact 3D LED advertising billboards can help with this. The costs are dropping at the time, they come in many sizes and create a wow factor for any high street / individual store location. Amscreen is a great example of this. When you see what can be done, you’ll have people sharing their experiences all over Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook etc. This is what needs to happen as well. Stores should also become more like kiosks, you browse in a showroom type environment and then make your purchase via an in-store kiosk for home delivery using an electric delivery vehicle a few hours later or wait and order online back in the comfort of your own home. Not quite got what you want? Solutions like Go Instore can bring the in-store purchase process to you at home. This type of technology is already being used by forward-thinking companies like Currys PC World and Sofology.” 

 He also believes that councils have a part to play in town planning that creates a mixture of old and new, retail, leisure and residential to get high streets buzzing again with friends and families socialising and shopping.  

 

An in-person experience should work in harmony with the overarching brand positioning and strategy to create a joined-up experience across omnichannel. Technology plays its part from slick mobile apps and pre-purchase activity to customer personalisation and voice and visuals. 

  Data should provide key signals and behaviours to help retailers personalise the customer experience to know their customers better and build long term brand advocacy. A great example of this personalisation is The Hut Groups (THG) ingenuity platform. Buying from their brands means engagement with a bespoke targeted customer experience that maximises rich data insights.  

For your customers to love you, it is critical that investments in technology work as intended the first time around. Adopting a quality mindset and robust testing practices will make a real difference to that experience.   

As retailers literally fight for their lives, all eyes are on those who can be the most creative and offer a customer experience that sets them apart from the pack. Even down to good old fashioned customer service from engaged employees who care about the people who walk through the door.  

 Don’t miss hearing Peter on our upcoming panel for our webinar “Can e-commerce save the high street”? 

  Join us on the 9th September at 11am where our expert panel will discuss these key topics: 

1) Why do you think the high street floundered & why has e-commerce been successful? 

2) To what extent has quality engineering and test automation enabled the success of e-commerce? 

3) To achieve a successful omnichannel experience, is it important for retailers to adopt an Agile methodology in-store as well as online?  

4) What is a quality mindset to you – and why should retailers look to inject that into their businesses?  

5) What skills are required for the modern tester in fast-moving retail and/or e-commerce environment? 

 We look forward to seeing you there! In the meantime, read about our services. 

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