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Retail Insight – Ian Johnston – Quinine Design

Wishing for a Better Omni-Channel Experience?

Retail Insight - Ian Johnston - Quinine Design 1

In this month’s Retail Insight, Ian Johnston, Founder of Quinine Design discusses how today’s consumer shops fluidly between online and offline retail channels on their browsing and purchasing journey, typically interchanging between a physical store, PC and their mobile device and how this can facilitate the connection between the customer’s online and in-store experiences of brands.

The expectation today is that the transition between these channels is seamless. From the consumer’s perspective, there is no such thing as a ‘channel’ – just a brand, where all channels are interconnected parts of a single retail experience. The challenge for brands, which often develop and manage channels independently of one another, is meeting this consumer expectation of a seamless, single brand experience, whether that be moving from an online to an offline experience or vice versa.

Where are we now? Early ‘omni-channel’ efforts connected online channels and the physical store through consistency of product offer, price-point, and tone of voice. More recently, the focus has broadened and we see technology combined with the physical store to deliver increased convenience (such as viewing the latest in-store offers, checking stock levels, or ordering via click and collect). As consumer habits, preferences, and pain points become more evident, these services have expanded and become more refined.

Combine online and offline to facilitate better in-store discovery and consultation Whilst there are several approaches that retailers can adopt to facilitate better discovery and consultation experiences, one area that remains underutilized and worthwhile exploring is how brands can enable customers to gather and collect the things that interest them, without feeling the need to purchase. This is the ability to create ‘lists’. Far from a new concept, the retail wedding gift registry was first introduced by the New York department store, Marshall Field, in 1924. This has continued into the present day with list services often associated with ‘life event’ purchasing, such as new homes, weddings, birthdays, and births. However, for most retail brands, there are further opportunities to leverage this concept, enabling them to connect online to in-store and in-store to online.

1. Online to In-Store: How can retailers leverage the physical store to convert online lists into better discovery and consultation moments? The habit of list-making is well established and goes beyond ‘life event’ purchasing. Here we explore how a retailer may look to achieve this.

  • Help customers identify stores that best suit their needs From their pre-defined online wish lists, purchase history and preferences, brands could communicate to customers which local store best aligns with their needs.
  • Help customers locate items in-store After compiling a wish list online, an app could be used to enable customers to navigate physical stores and find the items they need with ease.
  • Introduce staff to the customer (and their preferences) Using information from a customer’s online wish lists, browsing habits and previous purchases, an app could alert and inform sales staff when an existing customer makes an unscheduled visit to a store. The retailer can then allocate the most appropriate sales staff to look after that customer and offer a personalized consultation.
  • Curate personalized display areas Use wish lists created online to create customized appointments. Booked online, a dedicated private service area can be curated with pre-selected products ahead of a store visit. This greatly improves the potential for sales and is at the pinnacle of personalized store experiences.

2. In-Store to Online: How can retailers encourage customers to translate in-store discovery into online engagement and purchases? Retailers should also explore how they can drive shoppers from the physical store to their online channels. Here are some ways that retailers could start doing this now:

  • Enable the creation of in-store product wishlists As customers discover and select products and services throughout their in-store journey, enable them to collect them onto a list using their personal devices. This may be as simple as populating an online basket, so that customers can transact online, away from the store. It may also be about creating a ‘save-for-later’ category or a favorites list.
  • Connect a customer’s physical store transactions to their online history Combine the customer’s in-store and online purchase history to create a single, digital master list of their product and service preferences.
  • List-making beyond just products Use the physical store to introduce initiatives beyond the product and service offer. Enable in-store customers to ‘collect’ the things that interest them most about your brand and its community. These could be collecting things like a brand’s values and the company mission to read about later, such as branded content, community initiatives or rewards campaigns.
  • Curate online marketing preferences Use the physical store to bring to life products and services so that customers can refine and personalize the marketing content the brand sends them.

Bringing ‘showroom retail’ to life If retail brands are to successfully encourage customers to digitally capture products and services that interest them in-store and also motivate them to continue their journey online, they must first inspire and engage customers through great retail design. For customers to be interested, the store must be interesting.

There is a great appetite within retail today to deliver moments that connect deeply with the customer, moments that are meaningful and memorable and moments that are ‘experiential’. Inevitably ‘list-making’ is not the first intervention that comes to mind when looking to innovate. Nonetheless, lists should not be ignored. In order to create an ‘omni-channel’ that consumers adopt, we need to use small stepping stones to encourage new behaviors. Lists can provide retailers with a simple and recognizable bridge between the online and offline channels, before they introduce further, possibly more provocative omni-channel innovations to their audience. Incremental change is fundamental, as we must never forget that innovation is only truly successful when the target audience is ready and willing to adopt it.