Yes, be ready!

This is the final blog of our series where we have been looking at the question facing channel retailers, ‘To stock, or not to stock?’

As we know, today's shopping experience has shifted dramatically. Consumers are more likely to research potential purchases online before buying instore. However, it turns out that webrooming and showrooming by smartphone-carrying consumers isn’t the end of the brick-and mortar store.

Showrooming (viewing instore and buying online) and webrooming (browsing online and buying instore) is interesting and important to retailers, but the real story here is about the impact of technology — in particular the evolution and explosion of mobile technology.

Just as the Internet democratised information and content-creation years ago, consumers’ ability to carry the Internet around in their pockets has shifted the balance of power in shopping.

But it also turns out that consumers are harnessing Tech to return to stores – as a tech retailer, are you ready to receive their custom one hundred percent?

There are some key influencers to the way consumers interact with the purchasing process and your brand or store, and for retailers, it is important to anticipate ahead so that brick-and-mortar stores still have full relevance in a customer's purchase journey:

When expectations are not met

By now, consumers usually expect a seamless brand experience. Top retailers have been delivering it for years. And this is what all retailers are now being challenged with – to be a part of this seamless service, that includes having stock instore for the customer to physically engage with and experience first-hand. An IBM Consumer Study shows that these capabilities have gone from preferences to daily presumptions across the board. This same study also highlights two key effects that retailers should take note of: The Netflix Effect and The Amazon Effect.

To quote from the Consumer Study, The NetFlix Effect:

“You begin watching a movie on your TV, but you get interrupted. Later you open the Netflix app on your tablet. You resume watching from the exact point you left off. It’s seamless. And it’s affecting consumer expectations. How? Consumers now want to start an order in one channel and change it or complete it in another. In fact, 59% consider this important enough it’s affecting where they choose to shop. But there’s more… 64% also consider it important for a store associate to be able to access an online cart and modify or complete an order for them in the store. This preference is strongest in the younger age brackets and will increase over time.”

And The Amazon Effect, from the same study:

“72% of consumers now consider the availability of two-day delivery important when choosing whether or not to make an online or mobile purchase. What’s more, the number of consumers who indicated that the availability of next-day, same-day, or 1-2 hour delivery impacts their decision to buy was also significant.”

From both of these, it is clear that, as retailers, we should be ready to welcome consumers instore – greet them with friendly and professional face-to-face knowledge; digital dexterity; a clean, clear, contemporary, well-stocked and well-placed environment; and immediate product solutions that they can purchase on the spot and take home straight away. All of this converges completely with their expectations of a seamless experience – and, of course, a happy retailer when sales are attained.

Today’s brands and retailers are finding that traction is harder to achieve, with frictionless shoppers opting to buy whatever they want, wherever they want, and from whomever they choose. Inventory visibility is essential as consumer studies indicate that they would happily choose one outlet over another based on whether a retailer has the stock they are after or not. A recent study showed more than 80% of consumers would switch for this reason alone – so stock availability is key to be in on the action.

One expert comments that if a consumer finds a product they love on the Internet and it’s available in a physical place that is more convenient and faster than the online shop they first saw it in, that brand would have lost that sale. This is another reason why, as tech retailers, we should carry the right amount and mix of stock – to be relevant and ready, and a vital touchpoint, in response to today’s consumer habits.

To bring all of this back to our Network Group’s Shapeshifting theme for this year, our retailer brick-and-mortar store members also need to be mindful of remaining nimble and ready for consumers’ ever-changing lifestyles and shopping strategies.

Post-purchase is also key

For a good read on the importance of post-purchase, read this article “You Had Me At Goodbye”

We hope you've enjoyed our 3-part series of, 'To Stock or Not to Stock?' - feel free to contact Craig Hume or for any suggestions.