Oct 8, 2021
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Understanding in-store customer behaviour digitally is key to success says report

Oct 8, 2021

So what is the future of physical stores’ success in the fast-changing digitalised UK retail landscape?

Photo: Pexels

Having the technology to capture customer preferences and behaviours in-store will be just as important as selling products in bricks-and-mortar stores, according to the ‘Pulse of Retail 2021’ report, commissioned by digital software company Mercaux. 

Delivering a ‘Digital Transformation Roadmap’, the report looks at the “new generation platform digitising retail stores” and its survey across 200 retailers and 2,000 UK consumers reveals that the retail industry “is still in its infancy of digital transformation”. 

However, Olga Kotsur, CEO and co-founder of Mercaux, also said she’s “buoyed by the progress that has been made in such a short period of time since stores reopened to the public”.

She added: “The role of the store has changed – it is no longer perceived as a simple sales channel, but instead a multi-purpose omnichannel centre.

The report showed capturing the preferences and behaviours of customers in-store is important to 33% of overall respondents, rising to 47% among CEOs. It’s now considered by retailers to be almost as important as selling products (35%), “highlighting just how essential it is to unify the online and offline space to deliver a consistent omnichannel experience”. 

Also important for 30% is “using a store as a customer relationship centre”, showing just how important deploying ‘clienteling' capabilities is going to be moving forwards.

When asked where physical retail sits in terms of priority lists across all channels, 73% said it was a ‘high or top’ priority and was a consistent response across all retailers, regardless of size (from those with 50 stores to those with 1,000-plus). 

More than half also said that, post-pandemic, in-store revenues had rebounded to more than 60% of total, which would lead to high importance being given to future store investments.

In terms of business infrastructure, the report revealed that 38% of the retailers felt their systems were too old to support in-store digital transformation. Of those that did not know what is needed to deploy in-store technologies, the IT respondents were highest, with 30% not knowing what it took to rollout. 

The findings also indicated a “gross misconception of long lead times for digital transformation projects (from integration through to training and roll-out)”. 

A huge 68% estimated that deploying in-store technologies would take more than six months and within this, 13% thought it would take longer than a year.  “The reality is that by integrating with an existing infrastructure, it can take just one to two months to go live”, said Mercaux.

When asked whether retail teams were able to manage multiple technology transformation projects simultaneously, 43% admitted they were unable to transform their stores due to not being able to manage more than one technology project at a time. A further 43% said they could manage this, but it would stretch their teams. Just 15% said they were able to comfortably work on multiple projects simultaneously.

Also, the report showed 50% of retail respondents believe that sales associates working in their stores see in-store technology as a threat, “demonstrating the need for thorough onboarding and training at the point of deployment”.

The top in-store digital transformation technology launched by retail respondents was Mobile POS (20%) followed by clienteling solutions – of which 19% have already deployed, 25% were in the process of currently implementing and 28% were planning on doing so moving forwards. Third place was making and accepting appointments in-store (for styling advice etc), of which 16% had already deployed.

The next solutions on the cusp of being rolled out to stores are omnichannel and self-service consumer apps (31%) and assisted selling and self-service kiosks following closely behind (28%).

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