While everyone now agrees that the stores will not disappear, and on the contrary, they are the key to an omni-channel strategy without which no retailer can envisage a future, investments in digital are not very aligned with this vital observation.
The last years quickwins realized on the e-reservation or the click & collect are far from satisfying the purchase experience desired by the customer, and yet many retailers have already moved on, and focus their means and efforts on pure e-commerce topics. And this is how they move away from their DNA and inevitably from their customers who will buy elsewhere. Isn’t it true that Retail suffers?
And to do this, we are going to give the floor to Eric Chemouny new COO of Proximis who will share his point of view as an expert in retail and the world of e-commerce.
Eric, first of all, can you tell us what the consumer expectations are?
They are very simple. Omnichannel (also called omnicommerce) is a reality, and consumers want to find what they need in a simple, fast and efficient way, regardless of the device or the purchasing channel.
A customer wants to buy anywhere and at any time. This is called the era of anywhere, anytime, any device. - Eric Chemouny, COO of Proximis
In addition, consumers always tend to make purchases at the last minute. This entails major retailers being ready to meet this demand, especially during major sales events such as Christmas, for example.
How are retailers responding to this growing customer demand?
Overall, they are not ready, despite some early adopters who started a few years ago and who are now Omnichannel (Conforama, Ikea, Monoprix, Fnac, etc.) They are no longer compartmentalising the customer into a purchase channel. But we are only talking about 5% of the Retailers.
Since then, technologies have evolved, they are more flexible, cheaper and faster to implement. But the vast majority of retailers and brands are missing this shift, thus leaving room for pure players from web channels who have recently been investing in buying shops to gain ground (for example, Spartoo has bought André, and Amazon, Whole Foods).
This failed shift is both technological and strategic as the major brands are not interested in the essentials, in the customer and the customer Experience. Indeed, before setting up technological developments such as AI and robotisation, brands need to get closer to the basics of delivering a premium customer experience by offering them the possibility of using all the purchasing channels with ease.
It is important for them to understand that it is not AI or a robot that will bring a customer into a shop, but by offering the customer the best selling experience.
What do you have to do to implement an omnichannel strategy, and how do you do it?
It is therefore urgent to change attitudes by making retailers aware that switching to omnichannel is a business project but also a necessity. Where do you begin? Simply by the shops. Indeed, for the best retailers, 90% of sales remain in-store.
Therefore, it is important to set up inter-channel gateways between the shop and the website to get to know the customer better and, in particular, their behaviour on the web and to know this from the shop to then offer the customer the best services and products, and thus validate a sale. We can and must go even further by envisaging improving the online sales conversion rate which stagnates around 2% in France. The reason ? badly designed and poorly thought out websites, which very often create frustration at the moment of purchase, when they should bring simplicity.
So the change to connected commerce is for right now?
It is important to understand that such a project leads to change management within the company itself. And that's where there's an amalgam: while it is true that a few years ago it took a lot of time (around 3-4 years), and required a significant financial investment, that is no longer the case now. Indeed, while consumer expectations have evolved, so has technology and it now enables saving time and money.
The goal is to make sales, and for that it is necessary for senior management and the various departments that make up a company and the teams in the shops to all move in the same direction.
France is far behind, unlike our English-speaking neighbours where the majority of retailers already offer persistent shopping carts. Persistent shopping carts that are certainly becoming obsolete, but which have the merit of existing and allowing British brands to be close to their customers.
The British market has understood that the danger that lies in wait for major brands and, particularly in France, is the increasingly convincing success of pure-players and the increase in competitors that challenge them and make them miss sales.
So for tomorrow, what is the future of retailing?
According to Eric, an eternal optimist, everything remains to be done and we are at the beginning of a glorious story. We must not forget that we are talking about some historical French retailers, some of them opened stores a long time ago and who are still going strong. After supermarkets, which have tried in vain to undermine them, now the pure-players are trying to undermine them. It is not too late to be aware and finally act since we are a country of retailers.
The shop to the rescue of retailers
To stem the success of pure-players there is a very simple equation composed of 3 values:
- Customer's knowledge,
- Product catalog's enlargment, also called a marketplace.
And, an important clarification, these last two points should be visible from the shop and not just from the website, which, if you remember, only accounts for 10% of sales in best cases.
This winning strategy therefore requires the retailer to invest in in-store applications integrated inside the Omnichannel platforms, sharing the same basket so as to equip these sellers appropriately with a technology allowing a quality customer experience and thus a better conversion rate.
Indeed they must be able to sell a product to a customer from the shop to an other stock. Using an omnichannel platform integrating an order management, allows this because it is possible in a simple and quick way to know where the products are, to know the status of stocks available for sale, whether those of the web, those of the shops, or those of a marketplace, and unify them for optimized processing of each order. Order management also shows agility during the delivery, allowing to process an order from several stocks, and the delivery to several addresses. Remember that Amazon, still sells 260 million products from several thousand warehouses (and without having shops).
Innovation must be focused on this strategy encompassing these three points, and not on anything else. We must stop developing websites without worrying about the customer experience in the shop, since it is a waste of time and wasted investments. We must bring the customer from the web to the shop and offer a premium customer experience to conclude and convert the sale.
Social networks also participate in omnichannel and should even help to bring the customer to the shop and not just to the e-commerce site as is currently the case. This can be an additional gateway in the shop & website: why not encourage the customer to gain information from the website and then help him to finalize the order in the shop. This allows, for example, to support the customer who may be hesitating to validate his basket and who alone in front of their PC would abandon. The abandon is famus to be the main cause for losing a sale.
In short, we must stop seeing business in the old-fashioned way by opposing the shop and the e-commerce site. We have to see the overall picture because a happy and satisfied customer is a loyal customer. Hence, we must put the shop at the centre of an approach that will feed these existing channels to generate leads and ultimately gain a loyal customer.