A buyer’s journey can start in so many ways but with technology literally at the end of our fingertips, it is essential to track, analyse and influence buying behaviours both online and offline. The industry consensus is that integrated Omni-channel organisations are the future of retail, seamlessly linking home, mobile and store.

But in a competitive environment, businesses need to adapt to change. There are so many exciting new digital ways of transforming the buying experience, although nothing seems to beat the excitement of stepping into a store and browsing goods first hand and here are three reasons why we will continue shopping at physical stores.

Vivien Wang

Business Development Associate at SAP

The social experience – for most people, the experience of purchasing is almost always associated with socialising and being around other people. Shopping for clothes or fashion accessories is almost a rite of passage – a day spent with close friends and peers but for many people, shopping is never just about the exchange of money and goods – it is the act of buying and the chain of events that surround the experience.

Seeing is believing – how many times have you heard friends complain that the clothes or goods they ordered were completely different from what was represented online? Everyone has an online purchasing horror story, be it the wrong goods shipped, a delayed delivery or clothes that look completely different in real life. Most people like to see and inspect the goods they will be buying, and if those shoes look as good on them as they do in the catalogue!

Right here, right now – most people live a busy life and cannot sit around on their hands patiently waiting up to five business days for a parcel to arrive. For young professionals renting out in the city, it may not even be an option, as there is no one at home to receive and sign off the parcels. With physical stores it’s so much simpler – you walk in, buy what you need, then go home and start using it.

Physical stores will always exist as they bring their unique set of strengths to the retail world. That being said, there are many challenges that a physical store has to overcome, with customer engagement being a key problem that many retail companies have trouble addressing. Many in-store experiences fall behind on user experience and engagement, with regular customers receiving a first time experience from staff with no knowledge of the client they are there to assist.

Why digital transformation is so important for retail

People will continue using physical stores despite pressure from e-commerce and online shopping and increasingly multifaceted channels in which customers can purchase their merchandise. The way forward is somewhere in-between – blending both e-commerce and physical stores into a hybrid experience for both buyer and seller. Here are my thoughts on why digital transformation is that bridge between the two worlds, and how it brings together the best of both.

Innovative technologies can track and analyse customers’ behaviour – as the space in physical stores is limited, store managers and their team are careful to offer a selection of the best and/or most popular articles only. Digital tracking tools and analytics can track which items are the most frequently viewed and purchased on their websites, and provide these offerings in stores, helping refine and focus on the essentials and increase in-store sales by providing the relevant items.

Improvement of in-store customer engagement – according to PwC’s Global Customer Insights survey, most customers prefer to purchase their products in-store. People enjoy the experience of shopping in-store because it’s more accessible and navigable. When sales data is transformed into a digital and easily accessed consolidated platform, sales assistants and store managers alike are provided with a unified view of customer preference, footfall and merchandise data. This information will enable them to offer their customers highly personalised recommendations and assistance, which provides high conversion rates from customer interaction to point of sale.

Full alignment of the digital and physical consumer experience – while the role of store assistants in a digital age is undergoing a transformation, they continue to play a key role in the retail sector. Retail staff can provide tailored recommendations to the requirements of the individual customer based on the digital data and analytics they have at hand, and optimise the customer’s buying journey by selecting the top most relevant products, hand-picked to the customers’ requirements. With the right tools, in-store staff can provide an easier, more personalised and faster alternatives to silo-ed online shopping.

The customer journey becoming more multifaceted, a collaborative experience between different business functions, providing a common interface and a single source of truth, which will reduce time-intensive manual processes and offer a single visual view of the same data from different business perspectives. By eliminating unnecessary processes, time and cost can be greatly reduced. In my follow up blog, I will explain how Keytree’s SAP accredited packaged solution ‘Bridge for Retail’ can address this, therefore harnessing your opportunities across the customer journey, and on the bottom line – enabling retail stores to sell more and better.