The retail journey we traditionally knew of has been changing ever since offline retail met the internet. A “Great Deal” changed its meaning to “Best Value” from “Best Price”, this got the retailers to focus on upping the customer experience.
The recent pandemic and the subsequent lockdown just escalated the process to a different scale. Bringing to light a drifted retail journey.
It forced companies not only to get online with their offerings but improve the virtual customer experience in ways that they had not planned.
This does not imply that the offline space can be ignored. Research shows that companies, who supported their online initiatives with physical stores, by offering facilities like order online or via Phone or WhatsApp and pick-up at the stores or avail a curbside pick-up, witnessed a higher increase in sales.
Post lockdown the study of the buying behavior of customer shows, that as people return to in-person shopping at the physical stores, the online sales have dropped, but there is a difference.
While the lockdown period drove people to adopt online as the place of choice for their purchases, they have not yet let go of their offline penchant of going to a physical store. The same is reflected in the studies as markets open up people are going back to the stores to browse, engage and shop.
So, what has changed, well the Purchase journey as changed and changed quite irrevocably. The traditional funnel approach to making a purchase.
now looks something like this:
What does this mean for Retailers?
For one, customers today love the convenience of being able to browse, evaluate and shop from their phones. At the same time, they are social beings and love the in-person experience of engaging, browsing, bargaining & making a purchase.
Long story short, for a retailer the lines between online-offline retail have blurred. Retailers today, need to have robust, smoothly functioning multi-channel presence, that offers a superlative customer experience at every touch-point.
If there has to be a channel distinction it has to be internal. For the customer, it needs to be a seamless experience, as they move from one channel to the other in their purchase journey – right from browsing, product research, point of transaction, receiving the product and returns or aftercare.
The battleground has changed. The battle is no longer between online & offline sales, but between retailers offering a single channel for purchase and those who have well-established multichannel options.
Another thing to remember is that the one-way dialogue from the company to sway the customer solely on its messaging is a thing of the past. Today, the plethora of information, reviews, and opinions available online impact the customer’s final purchase decision. Thus, it is of little surprise that 70% of the purchases get abandoned at the shopping cart.
Repeat purchase is no more a given. Treat every purchase cycle as a Fresh one. Keeping customers engaged and connected to your brand and service with a post-sales engagement program is a must.
As the customer purchase journey is no longer linear how can the communication stay linear? Your communication needs to be personalised not only to the customer’s need but tailored to the stage of his/her buying cycle, to clinch the sale. The communication delivery also needs to be timed right.
To summarize, there is no questioning that there is a drift in the customer purchase journey. The retailers today need to focus on delivering the right customer experience, value proposition, allow customers an anywhere- everywhere access, have a multi-channel presence, follow the customer on his/ her purchase journey, allow for 2-way communication, nurture customer loyalty.