From Bricks to Clicks: Retail Experience in the Digital Age
Gone are the days of window shopping
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
The way consumers interact with retailers is rapidly changing: From the traditional storefront, retail has moved on to e-commerce, and now, to the so-called “New Retail” in which the shopping experience is brought alive by the integration of offline, online, logistics, and data across a single value chain.
With the way new technology is developing, retailers need to step up and start curating the retail experience they offer to the savvy consumer. In fact, online retail giants around the world are slowly but surely headed in the same direction. The stage is all set to indulge smart consumers in exciting new arrays of retail experiences.
It’s a common misconception that New Retail refers to Online to Offline (O2O) where retailers merely set up physical representations of their online stores. While O2O is a popular marketing approach in the last two years with the advent of e-commerce, New Retail demands greater experience-focused customer engagement and contextualisation by leveraging data technology.
Leading the charge in this global retail transformation, Alibaba has ironically launched its first physical store, HEMA, in 10 locations across Shanghai and Beijing. The fine-dining grocery store carries a curated selection of 3,000 products from 100 countries, and has set the bar for heightened consumer experience both within and outside the store.
At HEMA, consumers can either choose to order online via a mobile app and receive them within half an hour in a 5km radius; or scan barcodes at the store, pay via the HEMA app, and set up delivery. All the while, data on detailed shopping behaviour is captured via the same mobile app so that Alibaba can continually simplify and personalise the retail experience through organised events and dedicated food booths where they can get their groceries cooked on the spot.
To be a part of the New Retail world, retailers need to actively create a truly full and engaging experience. Take a leaf out of Alibaba’s books and utilize data to make precise decisions on design; delivery; and setup, to curate the journey of the consumer from the start. It is not just the integration of online and offline; it also encompasses logistics and data.
For example, retailers can utilize data on consumer behaviour and make it their guide to determine the layout of their storefronts. We do this at Castlery. Data that reveal information, such as the most popular furniture pieces online, can be reflected in the way each product is being presented to the consumer in physical stores.
An Era of Smart Consumers
The demand for a more intricate personalisation of the shopping experience is fuelled by the ever-demanding millennial consumers who are accustomed to variety, customisation, and personalisation in products and services. Thanks to new technologies, millennials are the savviest consumers to date, with reportedly an expected combined disposable income of $6 trillion.
New technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, and data will enhance the convenience offered to consumers equipped with information at their fingertips. Moreover, this generation of consumers is always on the lookout for items that not only fulfill their wants but also fits into their lifestyle and represents their personality.
A service like Amazon Go would excite millennial consumers who highly value convenience through technology. The service not only removes the need for long queues and checkouts but also sends live messages based on the consumer’s locations and behavior within the store, alerting them of items they walk past that are relevant to their lives.
In order for shopping malls to attract this particular generation of consumers, it is important to speak their language to tell the brand’s story. Other than presenting a certain look and theme, retailers have to engage the consumer as part of their own brand’s journey and identity.
Essentially, New Retail refers to the experience of shopping for the next decade, wherein shopping is no longer just a transaction where you pick up something you need or are made to think you need. The modern consumer is more concerned about the details of their retail experience with the brand.
Gone are the days of window shopping. Instead of browsing a store and leaving with nothing, New Retail means discovering something online, engaging with it in the physical stores, making that purchase, and finally having the item you desire at your convenience.
In this digital era where we bow our heads to smart devices, New Retail is here to make us look up and around again, to experience the same world we always knew, but now in a shining, shimmering, and splendid way.
Declan Ee is the co-founder of Castlery, an online furniture store in Singapore that provides a wide range of modern and high-quality furniture. Ee founded Castlery with one ambition — to reinvent how furniture retail works by offering great design at an honest price.