How to make the most of digital influence in physical retail

28/02/2019 | by Proximity

What customers expect yet retailers find hard to provide

Our path to purchase has been completely transformed due to the increase of digital interaction. We know that customers expect a unified experience at every touch point. Communications that are generic coupled with inefficient services such as incorrect stock availability and inconsistent delivery are not what a customer wants to experience.

However simple these issues appear to the customer we know that there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make customer experience as seamless as possible. From our work with a large number of global, luxury brands we fully understand the essential requirement for brands to join up the digital and physical dots and here are some thoughts around the importance of taking insight and actions from digital breadcrumbs.

Why should we use digital interactions in a bricks-and-mortar store?

We know that ‘nearly 80 percent of luxury sales today are “digitally influenced”, meaning that, in their luxury shopping journeys, consumers hit one or more digital touch points.’ These influential factors can include online browsing, adding products to a wish list, seeking advice from a personal stylist via WhatsApp or looking to social channels such as Instagram for inspiration.

One way in which we can make the most of online digital interactions is to utilise them in the physical retail environment. With the visibility of these digital interactions, retailers can look at how important they are in the path to purchase. They also help us to build up a picture of how their customers interact with the brand and how engaged they are making it easier to remain relevant and personalise content, communications and products to suit the interests of the customer.

While luxury e-commerce is growing fast, the portion of personal luxury goods purchases that happen online — now about 7 percent of total — is expected to plateau at about 20 percent by 2025. This means that, for the foreseeable future, the vast majority of sales will still take place in physical stores, which have yet to really benefit from the insights that can be gathered from digital data.

What is reverse omnichannel and how can it help?

We need to match the experience of online to that of the experience in-store, something that is often called reverse omnichannel. Previously we have used physical stores to inform online, now we are using online to inform store experience.

We build up data of many digital interactions yet we are not so good at learning from these interactions and capitalising on them in-store. Creating a flow of information between digital and physical is certainly a challenge, particularly if you consider all the different platforms we need to have visibility of and integrate with. However, once we have the ability to make the most of data thanks to innovations, such as clienteling, we begin to support the customer in a way in which can exceed their expectations.

What this means in practice is the need to equip in-store sales associates with information collected from online so they can then become part of the digital journey too. Clienteling utilises data from customer service management platforms, marketing platforms, online platforms and enables data to be visible where it is needed, in-store. If we consider the huge proportion of sales still taking place in physical stores we become acutely aware of how important the role of sales associate remains.

In-store Influencers are the key to unlocking retail’s potential

In the past year there have been significantly reported benefits form working with influencers. According to The State of Influencer Marketing in Fashion, Luxury & Cosmetics, influencers create great results.

  • 89.6% confirmed that the activities they carried out with influencers effectively generated brand awareness for their companies or products
  • 73.3% highlighted that influencer campaigns are effective for building customer loyalty
  • 69% find influencer marketing effective for driving sales

If we put these figures into context with someone who is directly engaged face-to-face with a customer eg the sales associate becomes “the in-store influencer” then I’m sure the stats would be even higher. An intimate personal relationship can be an extremely powerful thing, especially if that relationship can be enhanced by online insights.

Another interesting concept is that the customer through their tendency to share their interactions with the brand on social media become part of the influencer landscape. Like the digital word of mouth, it’s one of the best ways to create brand advocacy and business growth.

So next time we think about digital influence we must also remember to support our in-store teams to be part of the digital journey too. We know it works for our customers so, make it work for you too!

Written by Proximity

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