By Steven Kramer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fashion and apparel retailers are using multichannel retailing to augment the in-store experience for brand conscious shoppers. In the process, they’re delivering a compelling customer-centric expression of the retail brand that elevates the destination status of their physical stores.
The face of retail is changing with enormous rapidity. It’s reshaping the way brands engage with customers at every point of the buying process – and beyond – to boost customer satisfaction and increase loyalty.
Today’s shoppers are hyper-connected and expect to be able to mix and match channels with ease, moving fluidly across digital touch points, social networks, e-commerce storefronts, devices and store locations in a consistent and connected way.
What’s more, devices to access the digital world – smartphones, smart tags and sensors – are changing consumer expectations and introducing new ways to connect with customers. All of this makes multichannel an undeniable reality that brands need to master, and fast.
The good news for apparel and fashion retailers is that by integrating mobile platforms into the multichannel mix, they can deliver a very different in-store shopping experience that’s a unique expression of their brand values – making shopping fun and engaging but most importantly, personalized.
Shopping in person is a physical experience that’s difficult to replicate online. Consumers get to touch the merchandise and see it up close, and for fashion and apparel retailers that’s a really big plus.
By blending the in-store and mobile channels, retailers can augment the in-store experience and deliver truly compelling “MyCommerce.” In the digital world, retailers have the opportunity to build a complete view of their shoppers to create personalized experiences. This needs to extend to their activities in-store, using customer intelligence and insights to engage with shoppers in real time and incentivize and reward shoppers for their brand loyalty.
But for incentives to work properly they have to be relevant to the person at a particular moment. When a shopper visits the store and uses a mobile “check in” app, they could receive a simple question to identify the purpose of the shopping trip, helping the retailer to deliver the right content and incentives at the right time.
There is a lot of room for creative incentives based on customers’ preferences and purchasing habits. Using the same app, customers could receive instant updates on what items complement previous purchases or gain immediate knowledge of what’s currently trending in-store. If they have a favorite designer, they could receive advance notice of a new line coming, or could be prompted to go to their favorite fragrance counter to receive a special sample or giveaway with purchase.
And at the most basic level, using their mobile phone, shoppers can instantly find what’s in stock and available in their size and color preference, with the additional opportunity to be able to order and reserve from an “endless aisle” of inventory for delivery or collection in-store next time they visit. While not as glamorous as some of the previous points, getting this aspect right meets a basic customer expectation. For retailers with old infrastructure or processes, making this information available and accurate can be challenging, but it is not an option once it has become a consumer expectation – it needs to be a reality.
Integrating social into stores
But shoppers aren’t stopping there. They want to post a photo of an item and add it to their wish list to share with friends and family, or request feedback on items via social media. Some retailers are going as far as to integrate social media into the store shelves, with C&A in Brazil putting the number of Facebook likes directly on the hanger, for example.
For the retailer, being aware of these social media interactions paves the way to delivering detailed product reviews to customers as they browse in-store and providing instant coupons or daily deal discounts to encourage shoppers to make an immediate purchase.
A surge of innovation
When it comes to getting closer to customers, and using multichannel knowledge of a shopper’s habits, retailers can start to deliver on the promise of becoming a trusted advisor.
For example, on their way to the store, consumers can use their phones to access their very own “personal shopper” or “style guru” app that identifies likes from their previous purchase history and provides personalized recommendations on what’s new in-store that might be of interest.
Along with answering the question on the check-in app about the shopping trip purpose, shoppers could add more information about their shopping trip goal, e.g., “I want to try a complete new look,” in which case they could be offered a different style from what they purchased in the past to consider, or perhaps they want to find out “what works for my shape,” following which they are presented with a choice of body styles to build their shape. Perhaps they want to track down the perfect “wedding or work outfit,” and they can instantly receive a menu of style book ideas together with in-store item locations to help them find what they’re looking for.
Retailers can also put a new twist on the “order and collect” initiative by offering “reserve and try” apps that let shoppers research and prepare to maximize the convenience of their in-store visit. Within a few minutes they can request items in their size and color preferences – or try a total look – and have items ready and waiting for them to try on upon their arrival in-store.
Doing things differently
Today’s multichannel retailing technologies have created a powerful tool for better, closer and deeper consumer engagement and expanded the choices for communicating with shoppers at the right time and right place.
By doing new things in new ways, fashion and apparel retailers can reinvent the role the store serves in the total customer experience, creating more immediacy and greater brand trust – all of which allows today’s fashion and apparel retailers to take their look to the next level.
Steven Kramer is responsible for running business in the Americas for Hybris, which provides a complete multichannel commerce solution. Previously, Steven was president and co-founder of iCongo. He can be reached at email@example.com.