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2017 hasn’t exactly been the most promising year for the UK retail industry. With British retail sales posting their biggest quarterly fall in seven years for the first three months of 2017, along with news that twelve retailers had entered into administration by the end of March, you could argue that it’s all a bit doom and gloom for retailers right now.
So what can retailers do to ensure they don’t become yet another statistic?
Reflecting on what went wrong for Jaeger, experts are generally in agreement that its failure to capitalise on the growth of the online shopping trend caused its unfortunate fate. Much like BHS before it, Jaeger found itself left behind as other fashion retailers jumped on the digital bandwagon and adapted their services to meet changing consumer spending habits.
These days, we have now become a nation of flexible and savvy shoppers. Just think how often you have walked into a store and remarked, “I’ll see if it’s cheaper online”. Online offers a faster, more convenient shopping experience and that’s why UK online retail sales continue to increase year on year. In fact, £133bn was spent through online shopping during 2016 – a 16% growth on the year before. To remain competitive, retailers are finding they have to respond to this shift in consumer behaviour, finding ways to embrace digital to complement their traditional bricks and mortar presence.
Right time, right place messaging
One way this can be done effectively is by using instore WiFi and the Point of Sale (POS) systems as a tool for data capture and a form of proximity marketing. By offering free WiFi, retailers are able to gather hugely valuable data to help build a deeper understanding of the customers visiting their stores. For example, retailers can identify the location of an individual’s nearest store and, indeed, whether they are repeat customers. By knowing one-time visitors and repeat customers, retailers can push out contextually relevant communications, based on each individual store and customer’s preferences.
To take this to the next level, retailers can then combine this instore insight with an individual’s online user behaviour to add another layer of personalisation in their customer communications. Take, for example, a customer who is interested in buying a pair of shoes online. If they find that their size is no longer available online, they are more than likely going to exit the website. But imagine how delighted they’d be to receive a message telling them that their local store has the shoes they are looking for, in the right size. The communications are timely and relevant, and ultimately result in a sale that would have otherwise been abandoned.
So by bringing various data sources together, retailers can begin to engage with customers in more meaningful ways, pushing offers to customers based on any previous interactions and transactions they’ve had with the brand, tailored to their location and purchasing preferences. As a result, the customer feels like they are being treated as an individual. And that goes a long way in boosting customer loyalty during these challenging times.
A fruitful future
The very nature of the ‘always on’ society means that consumers not only expect to buy goods and services at any time of day, but they also expect to be able to communicate with retailers 24/7. They demand instantaneous gratification from any interaction with a retailer and if not, then their competitors.
However, it’s important to note that talking to your customers when they need you is no longer enough. Retailers need to be prepared to communicate with customers on their terms and that means doing so in the way that best suits their circumstances and preferences.
Therefore, to avoid becoming tomorrow’s headlines, for all the wrong reasons, retailers need to understand just how valuable data, from the transactions and interactions customers have already had with a brand, is in creating personalised experiences.
By leveraging this data and bringing real time demographic data, location triggers and behavioural information into one platform to appropriately engage with customers, brands can better manage information and deliver the ultimate customer experience they demand.