The rise of e-commerce over the past decade has changed the face of retail, with the added choice making it harder for retailers to keep customers loyal. With our research revealing that 55% of consumers often get bored of using the same shops and brands, it’s hardly surprising that they are flitting between retailers and making full use of the many available options both on-and-offline. With a mobile or tablet in hand, they now have complete control of the whole shopping process, unencumbered by inconvenient opening hours or unhelpful staff on the shop floor.
It’s not just technology that has driven change in retail. The increase in customers’ expectations has also made retailers think about how they offer their services and products. Our Mobile Consumer report found 74% of UK consumers are dissatisfied with some aspect of their shopping experience, ranging from badly designed websites to inflexible delivery options. Free delivery and click-and-collect are now the minimum requirement and retailers that can’t offer this will quickly wane in popularity. High-street retailers are faced with the additional challenge of not only maintaining physical shops and all the associated overheads, but also investing in e-commerce and fulfilment. So what can retailers do to win over customers and keep them coming back?
Be more mobile
Retailers know that the quality of their e-commerce offering is a crucial factor in their future success. The focus now is on optimising the e-commerce experience across platforms, and of course mobile is key to this. Our research found that 84% of consumers have made mobile purchases at home, offering an incredible opportunity for retailers to connect with customers. But with thousands of apps available, retailers need to think beyond product lines and transactions to the overall experience customers have with their mobile website or app.
Research by ARC found that what customers desire most from retail apps is simple transaction flows, elegantly-designed product discoverability, personalised experiences and social engagement. ASOS is excelling in this area by trialling innovation such as visual and voice search functions within its platform. This kind of digital experience is exactly what’s needed to keep millennials engaged.
Bring digital to the shop floor
According to comScore, nearly 60% of mobile shoppers in the UK who made purchases online in 2015 did so via a mobile app. This means retailers need to give customers a reason to leave their homes and hit the high street. I think the way to do this is by offering great customer service and investing in digital innovation which adds to the overall customer experience.
Dyson is a good example of a retailer doing things differently. In the summer, it made the leap from online/third party retailing to opening its first UK store in the heart of London’s shopping district, Oxford Circus. The shop brings the Dyson brand to life through showcasing its products and using Dyson’s own air purifiers. Customer service has also been thought about – instead of bulky tills, checkout terminals are kept within drawers.
Tech innovation is also where retailers can differentiate themselves from the competition. The phenomenal success of Pokémon Go this summer is something most will be striving to emulate. The opportunity omnichannel retailers have to combine the on-and-offline experience is huge, with geo-location technology to offer customers personalised and attractive offers and incentives when they are out and about.
The importance of providing a good customer experience, and service, should not be underestimated. Our research found bad customer service is the number one reason for customers abandoning a retailer in favour of another.
Convenience is key for consumers
With work commutes, school runs and endless chores taking up most of our time, it’s unsurprising our research found that convenience was the top priority for what customers want when they are shopping. Grocery shopping is something we all do regularly, and Tesco is carving a new path for the customer experience with the launch of its PayQwiq app, which is essentially both a mobile wallet and Tesco Clubcard.
This merging of payment/loyalty cards will undoubtedly soon become the norm (Sainsbury’s is already trialling its equivalent, SmartShop). Consumers have also quickly become accustomed to the convenience contactless payment offers, with shoppers spending £9.27bn via contactless between January and June this year. Clearly, convenience is key when helping customers have a frictionless experience.
Of course, consumer shopping habits can always be mapped against the backdrop of overall consumer confidence. Whilst the real impact of Brexit on the UK retail industry is still unclear, it’s likely that consumers’ attitudes will continue to fluctuate as they have always done. What retailers can do right now to encourage loyalty is a combination of the above to make the overall experience they offer a positive, convenient and exciting one that customers will want to repeat.
By Guy Chiswick, MD, Webloyalty