There is a new balance developing between high street and online retailers. Whilst industry experts have spent the past few years predicting the death of bricks and mortar stores, 45% of shoppers still cite the high street as their main shopping channel. Despite the rise in online shopping, seven in ten people actually prefer to make purchases in store after finding the item(s) they want online .
As traditional high street shopping begins to make somewhat of a return, retailers’ future strategies need to be considered. Many retailers have become increasingly ‘online focused’ in recent years, but it’s vital that they don’t leave their physical stores behind – by improving the balance between the two and offering multichannel shopping services, retailers can ensure they’re providing a competitive service to customers that want maximum flexibility in their shopping experiences.
Multichannel in 2017
Facilities such as Click and Collect continue to rise in popularity, and as such it is becoming increasingly important for stores to ensure their multichannel strategy is working smoothly, including how they process returns, so they can achieve the highest levels of customer satisfaction.
A major issue that retailers are encountering from multichannel services is an increase in impulse purchases followed by the inevitable returns. In making the shopping process as quick, easy and convenient for consumers as possible, shoppers have become more likely to change their minds, or order several sizes or versions of the same items with a view to returning the one(s) they don’t intend to keep.
When handling, and indeed anticipating, an influx of returns, retailers must ensure their in-store IT systems are fit for purpose, otherwise they’re likely to incur a range of issues when processing the return. IT issues at any stage of the returns process can increase the lead-time between receiving the return and processing the payment, causing issues for both the retailer and the customer and making it difficult for the retailer to keep track of items within their inventory.
It’s not just the IT team that this falls on however, as in-store staff must also adapt to new roles. Alongside front of house services and basic till processing, in-store staff may also need to advise on online ordering, Click and Collect options, and other multichannel offerings. Retailers need to consider how better to manage the skills gap and ensure current staff members are able to help with a growing range of customer enquiries. It is therefore important that as retail technology advances, so does the knowledge and training of all staff, to ensure a high level of customer service is provided.
Customers are fickle and retailers must cater to their wants and needs to provide a positive experience to retain their custom. With all the technological, economic and industrial changes that the retail industry undergoes on a regular basis, is it up to the retailers themselves to plan ahead and properly understand the market they are in. By maintaining a symbiotic balance between offline and online trading, businesses will have a much better chance of survival.