We talk a lot here at The Market Creative about shopper experience, in-store brand experience and omni-channel retailing.

We believe that the idea that a seamless shopper journey is the sure-fire way to build consumer advocacy through repeat retail business.

It’s no secret that today’s shopper expects, nay, demands that their buying experience with a retailer is simple, quick, and has a much information about their purchase process as they could ask for.  Whilst most bricks-and-mortar retailers are slowly catching up with providing the same retail experience in their online environments as they do in store, we’re seeing more online retailers are expanding their brand and investing in their shopper experience through a physical store. Getting omni-channel retail right is ever important.

The “clicks to bricks” advantage?

It could be argued that “clicks to bricks” retailers have something of an advantage here; they have the infrastructure in place that puts shopper convenience and the communication of key information at the heart of their business model, both of which today’s shoppers expect as a given.

There are some emerging trends that physical retailers also need to be mindful of.  Nearly two-thirds of shoppers would have more trust in an online retailer than in physical stores when it comes to having items in stock in the run-up to Christmas, according to a recent YouGov study.

However, planning properly for this is both an art and a science for online and local retailers alike, who must rely on historical data and market intelligence to ensure they don’t disappoint their customers.  If shoppers are truly putting their trust in e-commerce retailers now, they had better be able to deliver on time to ensure they build on the trust they have engendered.

The shopper journey of convenience

Further research also shows that more than half of consumers say they are becoming more and more unwilling to queue, as they become increasingly used to the ease of purchasing and altogether more convenient experience of shopping online.  Worryingly for stores, the study revealed that when faced with a queue, a third of consumers would end their frustrating experience and continue their shopper journey online, potentially with a different retailer.

There are many ways in which physical retailers are attempting to reinvent their shopping experience by using the technological advances we now have available to speed up the purchase and put convenience at the forefront – such as contactless payment, click-and-collect, and online ordering in-store.

John Lewis is a company that’s clearly aware that innovation is the key to their omni-channel success, driven by the need to answer their customer’s demands for improved convenience. Its latest extension of the click-and-collect concept is its new ‘Click and Commute’ store at St Pancras International station enabling commuters to pick up online orders and drop off returns. More than half of all John Lewis items bought online are now fulfilled through click and collect.

Maintaining a direction of travel on the seamless shopper journey

The key to moving towards a successful click-and-collect service lies at the back end of retail; supply chain is the unsung hero of ecommerce.  The ability of a company to deliver product individually picked, wrapped, packed and sent to the individual customer wherever they deem to be the most convenient, is no mean feat for a retailer that is solely used to managing their stock logistically in bulk.  Today’s seamless shopping experience demands nothing less though, and this will naturally involve a major re-engineering of their supply chain – requiring vision, investment and confidence.

Not all companies have pockets as deep as JLP’s, but they certainly can invest even in smaller more incremental ways to improving the shopper experience as a general direction of travel.  Enhancing the website user experience – whether it’s transactional or not – is something that can be planned across a period of time in line with available budget.

Shoppers rule… and always will

While the idea of providing a great customer experience should always be crucial to retailers, the need to manage an omni-channel approach effectively and develop a single customer view has only sharpened the requirement for the shopper journey to be as seamless as possible, whilst also ensuring it delivers against the brand’s values. Has anyone got there yet?  Some are clearly more successful than others, but whilst making the necessary changes, the service to the consumer must not suffer.  Customers who feel they could be served better elsewhere will most certainly vote with their feet – or fingers.

We’re passionate about omni-channel retail & working with single customer view for brands – talk to us to find out how we can help you deliver.