Bricks to the clicks: Finding the balance between online and offline retail

When we look at the changes driven by the pandemic, the last few years have shown businesses in the retail industry how consumer behaviour has changed, the rise of e-commerce and the role technology is playing is more significant than ever in order for businesses to survive.

From the conversations that are being had with technology leaders, it is no secret that businesses operating in the retail/e-commerce industries have been impacted by Covid. Retail has been on a travellator for over two years, but even before the pandemic there have been turbulent challenges for offline retail due to the rise in online shopping.

We have seen an upsurge in e-commerce across Europe and it isn’t slowing down. Businesses are starting to see the impact of what digital can do for retailers and its customers. In 2020, UK e-commerce boomed, growing up to 5x across the world compared to pre-pandemic levels. Online sales leapt 26.3% across the world compared to pre-pandemic levels according to company eMarketer.

Add to Basket

It’s common knowledge that Covid has been the key contributing factor in changes to how we spend and live. Thriving cities like Manchester are seeing over 30% less footfall before the pandemic, especially at the weekend. High street retailers will now be fighting to get the balance between online and in-person shopping, working to find the balance between the two.

A recent survey shows that around 44% of B2C and 58% B2B buys say they would prefer to research a product online before going into a physical store. 71% of in-store shoppers who use a smartphone for research say their device has become more important to their offline retail experience.

Businesses that implement omnichannel commerce strategies, which look to provide an overall customer experience whether that is done online from any device or offline, have a high customer retention rate, on average 89%. Omnichannel retail gives customers the convenience and ability to check product availability, reserve and pick up in store, creating more personalised shopping.

A personal touch

Recent conversations also suggest there is now more demand than ever for personalised omnichannel experiences by consumers.

Post-Covid, over 80% of shoppers plan to purchase via retail apps, social media networks, company websites and in stores. With online channels becoming the heart of a retail business, there is an increasing need to collect and analyse data to gather all important insights about customers to predict future behaviour and trends and offer a personalised shopping experience. Implementing a unified commerce approach to your business allows vital connection and centralisation of data collected from various channels.

The way this can be achieved is through technology, playing on the need for convenience. Customers are strapped for time; they will pay for convenience. Giving the customers what they want with automated ‘click & collect’, returns and even fitting rooms to decide before you buy. This will help in making the overall shopping experience more personalised, convenient, and enjoyable, meaning there’s a better chance for a customer to return.

Payments

While it’s already been discussed how the rise in only retail has stretched the possibilities of tech, consumers are now wanting the full package when it comes to their online experience. This includes appealing to these new digital-savvy customers who increasingly expect a seamless payment journey.

Consumers are demanding a wider range of digital payment options and subscription models, with 60% noting they would abandon their online shopping basket if they couldn’t use their preferred platform payment, with 30% wanting to try new methods based on positive experiences of digital payments since 2020.

Second-hand marketplace

Covid has seen people reconsider the way they shop and the second-hand is currently thriving in Europe. It’s thought that the preloved and resell platform market going to rise, and this is a trend we will see continue.

Ecommerce is enabling recycling at scale and will only continue as the global focus on sustainability grows. More than half of surveyed consumers say they would only buy from retailers who would demonstrate a commitment to ethical issues that are in the retail industry.

An Ecommerce future

Consumer behaviour is rapidly changing, and businesses must prioritise that change to survive. But despite previous challenges, retail is a very accessible industry right now due to the simplicity of online ordering, quick deliveries, the ability to buy/sell at home and the rise of online platforms. Retailers have seen first-hand that investing in their online business generates better ROI than offline.

In the Tech Nation report, respondents from the south-west think that technology will obliterate the high street with fewer staff needed and efficiencies can increase, with 28% saying technology will have the greatest impact on the retail industry.

Technology will ensure the survival of the high street, even if that now means a ‘digital high street’, something we have already seen well known high street brands transition to. But that doesn’t need to happen to every business. The retail industry has the tools and opportunities to create a seamless journey between online and offline retail.