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DIGITAL VS. PHYSICAL: DOES IT REALLY MATTER FOR CUSTOMERS ?

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If you have been anywhere around the retail world, a number of terms like Customized Shopping Experience, Omni-channel retailing, Crowd-sourcing etc. have been sending ripples across all marquee retail events worldwide, where each presenter – whether representing retail servicing companies, manufacturers, or retailers – has been painstakingly and proudly explaining each such retail-specific jargons to all and sundry.

Lately, the buzz has been all about “Digital”. So, please read on if you have been confused, just like many others, about what that seven letter word really means. Weren’t we supposed to have been over with the apparent boom of Digital Commerce? Have we not been accosted with every little detail on how the retailers worldwide have already deciphered the nuances of shopper behavior? Why concoct another one of those articles that tells you something you already know. In case I still command your attention, let me help you understand the scenario better!

Let’s first delve into a few of the recent media reports and researched statements, which you must have already read.

1.  To establish a personalized mobile powered communication, Macy’s and Marsh Supermarkets use Beacons. 

2. Combining the best of Online shopping and Store experience, retail giants ASDA, Tesco, and Sainsbury are implementing a new customer experience model which they call ‘click and collect’.

3. For their brand, Wella Shockwaves, P&G has used Social Media to kick start a new consumer co-creation model.

By now you must have already noticed a pertinent pattern emerging out of these snippets – digital is getting embedded and integrated into virtually each and every facet of Retail business rather than being limited to fancy Facebook pages or a ‘peer influence driven’ forced investments in e-commerce. The retail leaders aim to provide a seamless experience to their customers that cuts across the disappearing physical-digital boundary.

In simpler words, we are talking about a world in which a consumer will go ahead and:

1. Research in depth online

2. Use web-rooming services, or in other words use online communities for recommendations

3. Look for and trust online product reviews

4. Use ‘Show-rooming’ services, wherein a customer would be able to test a product at the store before going ahead and buying it online

5. Finally, a customer may want to use a store for not only purchasing a product but to also avail sales services and upgrades. If you look closer, you must have already grasped that neither brick-and-mortar nor digital environments play a dominant role. Instead they form a cohesive unit, thereby elevating customer convenience. While brick-and-mortar stores will use physical shopping to drive user craving, Digital expertise will help retailers conjure a sophisticated experience when it comes to shopping by diversifying options on products, pricing, SKUs, user convenience and bespoke services and products

So while a retail brand goes ahead and lays down a digital strategy, how does all this gibberish matter?

In an Omni-Channel world, it is about time we started to analyzing buyers and mapping them according to expectations and behavior. In other words, it is about time we stopped segmenting ‘Buyer Profiling and Persona’ as either offline or digital.

  1. By using certain predefined Value-Adds and services, ‘Digital Roll-Out Plans’ can be looked at and constructed as an end to end Supply Chain Pipeline, that cuts across all retail processes and form factors.
  2. Most importantly, the ‘Measurability’ factor of Digital processes for retail must use indicators like profitability, loyalty, contribution to top line growth, along with accurate measurements of the total costs of the capabilities required to drive the seamless Omni-channel experience, in order to capture the full ROI.

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