These past few years have made way for a sleuth of mobile-enabled, ever-demanding consumers.
Shopping from multiple touchpoints is now the norm and the instant gratification stemming from options such as next or same-day delivery has created short attention spans and climbing expectations.
Retailers, as a result, have been running to keep up, and those who are not quick enough to adapt to online and offline trends have fallen behind. Toys ‘R’ Us, Mothercare and House of Fraser were the most recent to fall victim to the struggles of the high street.
Thriving retailers, however, bring every part of their organisation together, utilising all available options, such as Google’s local inventory ads and Facebook’s dynamic product ads, to drive engagement both online and offline.
More and more online-only retailers, an example being Amazon, have been buying into brick-and-mortar which further demonstrates that a fully integrated online and offline strategy is the way businesses are going to secure a future on the high street in 2019.
What did retailers struggle with in 2018?
Online is steaming ahead and it seems almost hopeless for multi-channel businesses. Footfall and conversions are low, store closures are common, and more retailers than ever are struggling to adapt to the fast-paced, competitive climate on the high street.
That doesn’t mean that offline stores can’t deliver value. In fact, stores are retailers’ opportunity to provide consumers with an experience that they can’t get on Amazon.
Many long-standing retailers, however, struggle to keep up with changing consumer-demands. While stores are still highly valued, they prefer to shop in ones that provide exceptional customer service and experiences.
We find that those attempting to bridge the online and offline gap struggle with product data as well as local stock information. With thousands of SKUs and multiple channel specifications to consider, managing and optimising at scale is a real challenge.
When it comes to online advertising, retailers lose clicks and ROI because they don’t know the best way to capture the attention of today’s consumer.
While website experimentation is common, offsite testing is a rarity and retailers are missing out on the insight it could provide.
So, what can retailers do to get ahead in 2019?
Here’s our advice for established retailers and start-ups:
Start-ups have the advantage of a fresh start. They need to recognise the mistakes that have been made as well as the current challenges facing retailers.
If you’re an established retailer, then it’s going to be a bit harder. Major changes will need to take place, from the way you advertise, to the appearance and services offered in your offline stores.
Value must be delivered from whichever touchpoint the consumer chooses, whether that be mobile, PC, offline or offsite.
There was a time where the retailer was in control. If a consumer needed advice on mattresses, then they would rely on the salesperson at the local mattress shop.
Nowadays, consumers have all that advice at their fingertips. All they need to do is type a query into Google and thousands of results appear from businesses vying for attention.
That’s not to say, however, that the high street is defunct. Physical stores, if executed correctly, are an asset, not a burden. The winning retailers aren’t closing their stores; they’re doing the opposite.
Retailers like River Island and Schuh are advertising locally and seeing success; 85% of Halford’s online orders are picked up in store (Internet Retailing).
Nor should retailers ignore the importance of product data and its role in product ad visibility and conversion.
If they wish to win across offsite channels, constant management, optimisation and experimentation is crucial.
5 New Year’s resolutions to increase customer experience and sales
1. Get to know your shoppers. Which offsite channels do they use to shop? Research the terms, words and products they are searching for.
2. Fix, manage and optimise product data
3. Start experimenting with product content on offsite channels
4. Work on joining up offline and online strategies using local advertising (e.g. Google local inventory ads or Facebook dynamic product ads)
5. Improve store experience with immersive atmospheres and technology