Looking to 2020: Part 3


Omni-Channel, digital presence and shoppers' expectations

The term "omni-channel" came about in the late 2000s when retailers really began to take advantage of the Internet. For many businesses now, an online presence is not an extra feature of service or point of difference - customers simply expect businesses to be online.

It is important to be conscious of how Millennials and GenZ shoppers will want to interact with technology, social media and other online platforms to determine what online presence is suitable for your business.

Opportunity online is virtually endless

For a period of time, brick and mortar retailers viewed online retailing as a threat to business but that is changing fast.

For many entrepreneurs, starting a retail business (or any business) online is an attractive place to begin, and for established retailers it's essential to go digital. The costs are much lower, risk is lower, and social media assists with getting your business out to the global shopping market. Let's face it; online shopping isn't going to go away and retailers need to embrace digital channels.

Millennials and GenZ don't think "click vs. brick" because online shopping isn't about only being convenient for them, but more about what is relevant. It is true that Millennials are more conscious of convenience than those of GenZ, with the expectation that they can always get a product at the most competitive price online. But the key thing to remember is that there is an infinite amount of opportunity to develop and expand your online retail business.

Consistency of a brand and the in-store experience is expected to transfer into the virtual world of shopping

Continuity of experience will be crucial in 2020, especially for niche retailers or those who are personalising the online shopping experience and aiming to drive customers into store. This means that retailers targeting Millennials and Gen Z need to deliver a consistent brand experience across all platforms.

At present, Millennials are more price sensitive and always hunting for a bargain. They are more likely to be less worried about comparing similar products across a dozen websites, indifferent to where products are made or ship from because the goal is to get the best price with the most convenience. On the other hand, GenZ is a more conscious consumer and will look for high quality products and socially responsible retailers.

However, GenZ has an expectation that anything they want to purchase should be available to purchase online with ease, whether that be organic produce, a video game or a new outfit. It's also possible that GenZ shoppers' preferences will look more like Millennials' as they get older and busier and start desiring convenience over experiences. However, this is something that retailers potentially can influence from an early age in GenZ consumers if they start adapting to them now!

When designing an online retail store, it easy to get loaded down with the creatives, visuals, product range, purchasing process and more. All these factors are important and should be a reflection in line with your brick and mortar presence. If you begin your retail business online first, think about what the customer's experience would be like in-store, and implement that into the website as much as possible. That way, if you do decide to open a physical store after seeing success online, your customers will feel a sense of familiarity with your brand when in-store.

The expectation of service when shopping online is the same as what is experienced and delivered in store

The expectation of consistency from brands and retailers when moving from in-store to online includes customer service. Everything from return policies, promotional discounts, available live chat or online support are all examples of customer service standards that should be carried across to digital channels. Allowing for the customer to review products, or include information on size, fit, durability, and any other relevant information will also be helpful for customers making a purchase online.

A negative customer service experience is one of the main reasons that shoppers might choose to change brands or exile some retailers and service providers. When the focus in store is on fostering a positive customer service environment, customers will continue to have more positive experiences are likely to stick with you. If this translates online as well, then you are golden! However, if you are a good brand with bad service, it is also possible that customers will move online to avoid your shop. Keep track to see if there are patterns between dropping foot traffic and increase in online sales; that could be a result of bad in-store experiences or lack of product, to name a few.

Millennials and GenZ are expecting retailers to target them specifically when shopping online, tailoring the experience for each individual customer. This is especially true if your website has a loyalty programme or a returning customer login. Most websites have these by now, but if you don't then look into it immediately! It is so much easier to keep track of your customers when this tool is utilised. The ability to guide your online Millennial or GenZ customer to a product that is similar to previous purchase, demonstrating price comparisons and even taking advantage of social media platforms is a technologically savvy way to really make their experience unique.

by Emily Duncan, Retail NZ Adviser

Published on the Retail NZ Blog, on the 2nd February 2018.