Retailers have had a lot to deal with during the pandemic. Aside from the closing, re-opening and possible threat of re-closing, they’ve had to weather occupancy management, excess stock and a new way of operating which shopping is not suited to. For retailers like Primark – brick and mortar only – there have been challenges to the business model. But even omnichannel vendors, such as Next have not been able to ride the storm without significant hurdles. Undoubtedly it’s been tough, and whilst retail sales have bounced back a little to record better than expected results, retailers will need to be on their A-game to survive the next few months.
The problem they face is consumers simply have so much choice. If one retailer can’t provide a solution, another will. Many retailers were therefore focusing on ways to form bonds with customers, with customer experience a cornerstone of their retention strategy. However, in today’s Covid-centric world, customer experience has evolved completely, making it much harder to surprise and delight. Retailers therefore need another secret weapon tucked up their sleeve, and in my view, this is personalisation.
I admit, it’s not a new concept, but it is one that can help bridge the online and in-store experience. This is vital, as while the majority of us have adopted online as the go-to channel, it does not replace the experience of walking into a shop and being able to view or touch the product in question. When browsing online, there is always an element of doubt – from wondering how it looks in real life, through to whether it will fit well or make you look frumpy. Shoppers are looking for trusted advisors, and retailers can make this transition.
But what will that look like? Well, it’s all about communicating. Often in-store experiences are made by finding a hidden deal or interacting with a shop assistant who goes out of their way to be helpful. However, this close interaction is now diminished thanks to social distancing, so it needs to be replaced digitally.
Successful retailers will be able to demonstrate to customers that they understand their needs, and can meet them fully. Much like communicators knowing the right message and channel, retailers will need to do the same. To achieve this, they need to capitalise on the fact customers are online more. Can they glean insights from when people browse, if they abandon their baskets, whether they want to pick up items or pay more for delivery? Understanding what makes people tick will help deliver more efficient promotions and a smooth customer journey – all of which personalisation can play into.
In my view, retailers can’t afford to put personalisation on the backburner. It’s a part of modern-day retail and therefore needs to be prioritised, even when costs need cutting and excess stock shifted. Understanding and appreciating your audience will help win them over, by communicating clearly and concisely, whilst also showing you value their custom, as much as they appreciate the service you provide. Retail is an ever-changing beast and technology will be the driving force behind future successes. Therefore, show your audience some love – they’ll thank you for it.
by Fiona M.