Omni-channel shopping experiences are key to retailer survival

By Rachel Newton, Marketing Director, SessionM

How do consumers shop for retail items? How do smartphones influence their decisions? And how do they plan to use smartphones in the future? To survive, and more importantly thrive, in an evolving landscape, retailers must learn more.

Every week, news headlines announce the closing of brick-and-mortar stores as shoppers increasingly opt for the convenience of online. With this mounting pressure, retailers are focused more than ever on increasing store traffic and sales. Customer expectations are higher than ever; they demand consistent communication and shopping experiences across all channels and touch-points.

According to eMarketer, brands with omni-channel consumer engagement retain 89% of their consumers, compared with just 33% for brands with little to no omni-channel engagement. For brands and retailers to be successful in this evolving retail landscape, omni-channel strategies are essential in day-to-day activities.

To gain a deeper understanding of how consumers shop for retail items, how smartphones influence decision-making and how consumers plan to use smartphones in the future, SessionM surveyed more than 5,000 retail shoppers in 2016 and discovered several trends.

Consumer retainment

Smartphones complement in-store experiences

In-store shopping is still popular; 93.7% of those surveyed made a non-grocery retail purchase in the last three months, with 74.1% (versus 72.7% in 2015) of consumers making purchases in-store at brick-and-mortar locations.

In 2016, consumers continued the trend of complementing shopping experiences with smartphones, with 93.2% saying they use their smartphones when shopping – for activities such as comparing prices (53.7%), searching for product info (49.3%) and checking online reviews (42.6%).

Compared to 2015, an increased majority of customers use smartphones to complement their shopping experience through a variety of activities, providing brands with limitless data. By leveraging this data and infusing it with artificially intelligent technology, brands can showcase content consumers will find most appealing and ultimately lead them to a purchase.

For example, with the use of AI, Italian lingerie brand Cosabella switched the color of a button on its checkout page to pink, increasing conversions for a product by 34.9% and boosting overall sales by 35.6%.

Hyper-personalized content creates loyalty

According to the SessionM survey, more than 63% of shoppers said they would be more likely to shop at a retailer if they received relevant deals and offers as personalized engagements such as push notifications and messages while they’re shopping. Having engaging and rewarding loyalty programs are slowly becoming more popular and necessary for retailers to retain consumers, as 78.3% (versus 76.6% in 2015) of consumers say they would be more likely to shop at a retailer where they can earn points for future purchases.

Based on these data points, it is clear that a growing number of consumers want a more engaging, real-time shopping experience through relevant offers and deals from triggered messaging. From the retailer side, an Econsultancy and Monetate report found that companies that have personalized the customer experience see, on average, a 19% lift in sales.

Beyond marketing and content, though, loyalty programs need to be personalized for customers’ preferences, frequency and spend. According to Forrester Research, satisfied loyalty members will make an impact on sales. In a typical three-month period, loyalty program members on average spend $42.33 more with traditional retailers (those with physical stores) than shoppers not in a loyalty program, and program members rate their customer experiences higher than nonmembers across most industries.

Mobile purchases are increasing

More than 85% of respondents said their mobile buying frequency held steady or increased, roughly the same percentage as in 2015. However, 46.4% of respondents said their mobile buying frequency increased, with 17.3% saying they made retail purchases significantly more often compared to the previous year.

With a majority of customers making mobile purchases, it is clear people are starting to use smartphones for more than just a better in-store shopping experience. In fact, eMarketer found that 2017 will be a benchmark year as $75.5 billion, or 50% of all retail m-commerce sales, will be transacted on smartphones (up from 48% in 2016). To capitalize on the shift, retailers need to provide better-optimized, easier and more consistent experiences for mobile shopping within an app or site.

More than ever, customers want personalized, relevant and consistent shopping experiences across all channels. They are still shopping in-store and online, and are increasing their buying frequency across the newest channel, mobile. Retailers need to make omni-channel consistency a top priority if they want to survive in the changing retail landscape.

Customers are providing countless data points, and the proper technology provides dynamic ways to guide them through their individual customer journeys and influence them at the point of purchase, when it matters most. It is up to retailers to take charge when it comes to the customer shopping experience.

Rachel Newton is Marketing Director of SessionM, a loyalty marketing automation platform.

Download the report “Retail Shopping: Delivering Omnichannel Experiences Through Loyalty Marketing Automation.”