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Catch ’Em and Keep ’Em: Revitalizing the Retail Landscape in a Cross-Channel World

Internet ubiquity, personal technology adoption and e-commerce growth have produced a new consumer behavior that is today referred to as ‘cross-channel shopping’. In this environment, consumers hop from one channel to another throughout the shopping journey looking for the best deal. For retailers, cross-channel shopping demands a new approach to win customers and capture wallet share. Today, we will learn more about the “Catch ‘Em and Keep ‘Em” concept and get insights into how retailers can revitalize their stores in this new cross-channel world.

The retail industry exemplifies the maxim, change is constant.  With the advent of the Internet, retailers today enjoy new sales opportunities outside the four walls through the creation of an online store – a virtual extension of the storefront where customers can shop 24 hours a day. As a result, customers can now literally search the world for any item anywhere and at any time. And in addition, customer demands and expectations rise significantly, since in just minutes on the Internet, consumers can have it all – the quality product they want at the lowest price possible, delivered right to their door.

Last but not least, the 24×7 availability of the Internet on smart technology devices is paving the way for an unprecedented change in retailing. Traditionally retailers have defined customer shopping paths. But now, customers are defining their own shopping processes – and each customer can create a shopping pathway to best suit his or her needs. For example, one customer may choose to research products and pricing online at home before visiting the store, while another might utilize the cell phone while inside your store to check pricing or obtain product information.

To succeed in this challenging market, retailers must address three critical new challenges that have emerged as a result of these trends:

  • “Catch” consumers as they search for products, prices, and shopping ideas
  • “Keep” shoppers connected to your brand as they use various devices (PCs, smartphones, tablets, in-store screens) to bounce between channels (store, online)
  • Entice customers with experiences that trigger them to buy – and buy more

Coined by the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), “Catch ’Em and Keep ’Em” retailing uncovers a new opportunity – revitalizing brick-and-mortar stores through the introduction of web-based content and virtual experiences similar to the ones shoppers increasingly enjoy online. Over the past two years, Cisco IBSG has studied this new cross-channel shopping behavior and teamed with several leading retailers worldwide to test consumers’ interest in “digital into-physical” concepts – referred to as “mashops”. Simply put, the term “mashops” refers to a concept that combines web-like experiences with the shopping experience in stores, creating a “Mash up” of the physical and virtual worlds. By “mashop-ping”, consumers want to get the best from both worlds: the convenience and information driven by the web-based experience and the tangibility of the products they want to buy.

A recent study indicates that significant opportunities exist via the development of mashops to increase sales, grow conversion rates and preserve margins by combining web-like experiences (social networking, online reviews, personal offers) with the shopping experience in stores. The research revealed that retailers should pay attention to two customer segments:

  • Calculating shoppers (56 percent of the general population) use the web to inform their

buying decisions.

  • Extreme shoppers (11 percent of the general population, with a high representation from Generation Y) use the web and smartphones to turn shopping into a low-price battleground.

The survey also found that:

1) Shoppers prefer online sources to “real people” in making buying decisions, naming friends and family as their top source of information for making buying decisions.

2) Different digital content influences different buying triggers frequently compelling consumers to buy.

3) In-store digital content is an important buying influencer. There is growing interest in using digital and highly visual content in the store to help make buying decisions. There was also significant interest in using two other forms of store-based digital content delivery – video screens and video walls – to enhance decision making.

4) Cross-channel shopping behavior is prevalent and desired – even inside store walls. It was no surprise that researching products online, then purchasing them in a store, was the most popular form of cross-channel shopping.

5) Shoppers crave immersive shopping concepts that use the power of virtual reality so shoppers can envision what is possible (for example, trying on outfit combinations virtually).

Mashing up the virtual and physical worlds for shoppers in the Middle East

In the Middle East specifically, retail continues to be one of the fastest growing industries both in terms of investment and revenue generation. According to research conducted by RNCOS, the Middle East retail industry will grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% from 2011-2014 to reach over US$ 1,000 billion by 2014. As the retail industry in the Middle East continues to experience phenomenal growth, concepts such as mashops promise to preserve margins and increase sales. Shoppers are also more likely to upgrade their purchases and increase the basket size when factors other than just the best price influence their buying decisions. As mashop solutions mature, retailers will also experience operational efficiencies due to more effective customer self-service. This will allow retailers to operate with more centralized staffing models.

Given the significant benefits that such concepts provide, the Middle East retail industry is primed for the creation of new retail shopping experiences that is enabled by technology to attract and retain customers, speed up processes and deliver cost savings.

Interestingly, the first step to create mashop experiences does not involve technology. Start by understanding your brand promise and the Internet-like experiences that will be needed to make those promises a reality. Next, design and implement a technology-based platform to deliver the required capabilities. Finally, reassess and adjust your use of staff, range, space, fulfillment, pricing, and customer relationship management. The creation of a mashop concept goes well beyond simply integrating a website into an in-store kiosk or interactive screen.

Once you have refined your mashop concept, it is important to consider the following business and technology enablers to scale it across your operation.

Business Enablers

  • Knowledge and content management, including content generation, refresh cycles, decision rights and responsibilities and content security.
  • Operational processes and procedures, including associate roles and responsibilities, labor and expertise management and optimization, and revenue recognition.
  • Channel management, including data integration, cross-channel inventory fulfillment, and revenue recognition.

Technology Enablers

  • Content management and delivery, including security, bandwidth capacity and optimization, and the architecture required to deliver reliable, high-bandwidth, low latency experiences at peak traffic times.
  • Store architecture, including bandwidth capacity, CPU optimization and virtualization, and total thin-store opportunities.
  • Data integration that enables a single view of on-order and on-hand inventory, customer profiles, and flexible fulfillment.

By taking this approach, retailers that are ready to gain a competitive advantage with technology now have the opportunity to do so. The way forward is clear—bring the Internet into the store and take the store to the Internet.

Written by Robert

Respected Kenyan blogger, tech evangelist, and social justice activist. Robert is known for his hard-hitting articles and opinions disseminated through his Twitter handle @RobertAlai or Facebook page (www.fb.com/RobertAlai).

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