The invisible shopper – integrating the store into omnichannel

Did you hear the one about the shopper who walked into a store – and became invisible…? It’s a story that many of us are all too familiar with; we shop online with a brand and feel that they really know us – we get tailored offers; our wish lists and favourites are saved from our previous visit; checking out is simple because our payment and delivery details pop up on screen and our loyalty points are always visible.

But none of these things happen when we walk into a store – so we feel ‘invisible’ to the retailer.

But should this bother retailers? Aren’t more and more of us shopping online, and won’t the store soon be dead as a buying channel? Is it really worth investing in making the shopper visible in the store?

The answers are yes, yes, no and yes.
Yes, having invisible shoppers should certainly bother retailers, because although
Yes, more of us are shopping online,
No the store isn’t dying and therefore
Yes, it is worth investing.

In research commissioned by CitiXsys about the shopping habits and attitudes of Australian and New Zealander shoppers, a significant majority (85%) said they shop online and in-store. Whilst it is certainly true that online usage is growing, shoppers are not necessarily completing the whole transaction through that channel. The biggest growth of online is for awareness and research, with the purchase then being made in the store – in our survey, 63% of Australian shoppers and 71% of those in NZ reported this behavior. Shoppers browse for information, but still want to physically try on, touch, feel and look at the goods in a store before committing to the purchase.

Even when the shopper does pays for the goods electronically, a significant number use ‘Click and Collect’, and therefore still visit the store to pick up their purchases.

The store is far from dead, or even dying, and remains a highly important piece of the shopping process.

The invisible shopper - integrating the store into omni-channel

But here’s the rub – whilst 60% of shoppers feel that it is important that retailers have a single view of them, regardless of which channel they use for which piece of the purchase process, they certainly don’t all believe this is happening. Only 30% feel that they are equally rewarded across all channels. Our shoppers reported that when they shop online they are treated as a valued customer, but they don’t get the same feeling in-store. They feel they are treated as a ‘friend’ online but are anonymous in-store. They are ‘invisible’ shoppers.

So, what can retailers do to integrate stores into their omnichannel strategy and make customers visible?

Firstly, they need to implement digital loyalty – a loyalty program that works anywhere and everywhere, offering the same benefits, wherever the purchase happens. Loyalty programs based on plastic cards are very limiting, and only exacerbate the visibility issue. If the customer doesn’t have their card on them, they can’t participate in the program – they can’t be visible. It’s particularly an issue in Australia and New Zealand, as we love to be loyal shoppers – a whopping 85% are members of at least one scheme and 15% of Australians and 8% of Kiwis participate in more than 5. No wonder they don’t want to be filling up their wallets with plastic loyalty cards. The shoppers in our survey confirmed this, telling us they want loyalty smartphone apps from their favourite brands and to be emailed rewards rather than given paper vouchers.

Once retailers can integrate a digital loyalty system with their POS, they are on the way to ‘seeing’ their in-store customers

Ultra-Personalisation

Interestingly, three-quarters of the shoppers in our survey feel that shopping in-store is more personal, in that they interact with people, not a screen, but that it is less personalised, because unlike the web store, the staff in the physical store don’t know anything about them. What shoppers want is for stores to give them the personalised service of online – tailored offers, suggestions based on their preferences, messages when they are close to, or entering the store, invitations to new store openings and events – and they are happy for their smartphone to be part of their shopping experience, giving retailers the perfect tool for really getting up close and personal.

The store, the most traditional form of shopping is still alive and well. Online has taught customers to value loyalty and personalisation. Retailers need to implement omnichannel strategies to pull these two worlds together, and harness the benefits of both. And open their eyes, and their doors, to the ‘visible’ shopper.

For a copy of the CitiXsys report ‘The era of unlimited shopping possibilities’ , click here

Senior Vice President of Sales for Asia Pacific and the Americas, for CitiXsys, Paula Da Silva has more than 10 years’ experience in the retail industry associated with delivering innovative software solutions to mid and large sized retailers. Known for her strong track record of operational excellence and managing a global ecosystem of technology partners, Paula has been instrumental in building the iVend Retail into a global market leader in the retail industry and plays a major role in the Company’s overall performance.

Paula Da Silva