Incorporating online customer behaviour into a real-world store is one of the biggest challenges facing retailers today. Indeed, the lack of integration between the internet and the high street is touted as one of the many reasons for the decline in bricks and mortar stores. Still, there are a number of companies facing up to the task of bridging the gap between the real world and online.
As an initial step, many companies offer in-store WiFi for customers. In the United Kingdom, 51 per cent of 18-34 year olds use a mobile to compare prices or look at produce reviews while out shopping and businesses like Tesco or Debenhams offer free WiFi in order to collect customer data or promote the latest deals. Indeed, according to a survey from OnDeviceResearch, 74 per cent of customers would be happy for a retailer to send promotions when connected to in-store WiFi. Waitrose is the latest organisation to launch free in-store WiFi, planning to introduce the feature across its locations by spring.
“It will give customers another way of shopping and interacting with us,” said Head of Retail Change Matt Clifton. “It will also play a vital part in future plans such as customers being able to use mobiles to scan their shopping.”
But Waitrose is not the only retailer looking at how to incorporate general mobile use into the in-store customer experience. Multi-channel retailer Argos has been making huge strides in combining its real world and online offering; the store now provides in-store ordering for home delivery as well as Check and Reserve functionality.
“Customers are taking control of technology,” stated Terry Duddy, chief executive of Argos parent Home Retail. “We are better positioned than virtually anybody we can think of to win in a digital future.”
No conversation about the digital future of retail though would be complete without mention of social media platforms. Being able to action social media data in real time is the holy grail for retailers; providing customers with help and advice in person following a social media comment.
“If a customer has an issue with us, they don’t write in any more – they post it on Facebook, Twitter or other sites,” states Jill Clark, director of retail communications and customer service at Specsavers. “We have, on occasion, seen the post, called the store and they have then located the customer and resolved the issue.”