New research from the USA shows that shoppers are now almost evenly split on whether they shop online or in stores. The research was recently published in eMarketer and shows that over the recent holiday season, American shoppers were split with 45% preferring online, 52% preferring physical stores, and 4% preferring mobile.
This is interesting for a number of reasons and reflects the fact that shoppers who use multiple channels are generally more profitable for retailers. In fact, 59% of American retailers have documented proof showing that their multichannel shoppers are more valuable than those who only ever use a single channel.
I think this indicates that we are reaching a tipping point in customer expectations. The fact that the preference is almost exactly half online or mobile and half physical store shows that retailers need to make both channels work really well.
A major issue that still makes it difficult to deliver a comparable online and offline service is the fact that customers entering a store are anonymous. More and more, retailers are going to want customers to somehow ‘check-in’ and indicate their presence so their in-store experience can be personalised.
There are some different ways to achieve this:
- KFC in China is experimenting with facial recognition. The system remembers previous orders by the customer and then adds various factors such as the time of day to predict what the customer may want before they order.
- Mothercare asks customers if they want a receipt by email, allowing them to identify the customer and capture loyalty information to instantly create offers when the customer is paying in-store.
- Payment systems in apps. Good examples are Starbucks and Walmart – offering to remove the checkout experience by letting customers pay via an app has the added advantage of letting the retailer know that the customer is in-store.
In general, customers are willing to be identified if the retailer offers them an improved service – such as no checkout lines – or offers and recommendations. Customers are getting used to a highly personal online shopping experience and it’s difficult to replicate that in-store.
With half of shoppers now preferring online and half in-store, it’s getting more important than ever to get this right. Have you seen examples of companies getting omni-channel right? Leave a comment below, or get in touch on LinkedIn, and let me know.