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The end of physical retail? Not if you make it personal


Purple is a Business Reporter client

The demise of physical retail has dominated debate to the point that it’s almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The universally accepted mantra is that good old retail has had its day, usurped by online – the (relatively) new kid on the shopping block.

We’ve all become so caught up in this negativity – exacerbated by the past two years of global disruption – while digital retail has exploded, quicker and more powerfully than anyone predicted. Disruption is nothing new in retail, but this is different, with digital adoption strategies accelerating to deliver a transformation which, without the pandemic, may have taken a decade.

Change first, then you will survive – and prosper Ask yourself, has this acceleration simply shifted your focus rather than shaped your company’s overall vision? Despite significant increase in investment in e-commerce, it hasn’t fundamentally changed retail. Convenience, choice, a more tailored experience and the safety of online shopping have meant far fewer people visiting physical stores – evidence of a diminishing sense of loyalty. Your customers have changed irrevocably, and so you too must change.

Data from Purple’s recent research project – covering 1,500 shoppers across groceries, fashion and apparel and big box retailers with mature online and physical shopping operations in the UK, US and Mexico – confirms that 75 per cent of us still have a foot firmly planted in each camp. Shoppers remain optimistic about the future of physical retail and want it to survive, with 60 per cent of our sample unable to envisage a future where fashion retail disappears. Among grocery retailers, 40 per cent of customers doubt this sector will transfer completely online.

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Retail is not wasted on the youngYoung shoppers make instant judgments about your brand – on your fit with their lifestyles, values and interests and the quality of the overall shopping experience. They expect an experience closely mirroring their online activity, aligned with sustainability – reflecting the burgeoning impact of climate change, social justice and inclusivity. Data confirms the importance of these “soft experiential discriminators”.

Understanding who your shoppers are, and curating bespoke marketing initiatives, including targeted programmes, promotions and personalised experiences based on real customer service rather than an algorithm, are key to driving loyalty. With 97 per cent of our survey respondents stating that retailers can improve their loyalty to the brand, and 83.5 per cent saying that some sort of personalisation or targeting would make them more loyal, the opportunity is clear.

Retail pessimism? That’s so pre-pandemic! Let’s be positive about the future. Our data reveals more than 40 per cent of customers have shopped in a physical store more than 30 times in the past year. Online still has some way to go to challenge traditional brick store footfall.

Physical retail remains the go-to for regular shoppers. Globally retailers saw a 7 per cent increase in footfall and a 48 per cent increase in customer return rates, in a comparison from before the start of the pandemic to after. And only physical stores can turn the purchase journey into a purchase adventure.

The pandemic has prefaced a series of extraordinary events, from crippled supply chains to generational inflation and the impact of the Ukraine conflict. It’s difficult for retailers to completely change their direction under these conditions. However, evidence suggests that the fallout from these events is making it ever more important to seize your opportunity before it’s too late.

Make your stores as exciting, engaging and personalised as possible. The winners will be those who build the most rewarding customer experience.

It’s not physical. It’s not digital… Stop viewing the current digital acceleration as a threat and start viewing it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform your retail strategy. It’s a complex hybrid. Adopt a unified approach that aligns with forever changed customer expectations to create a new, profitable omnichannel future. Integrate physical retail with online data collection, providing a new seamless shopping experience where the combination of online and offline drives even higher levels of customer satisfaction and revenues.

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Data drives personalisation, drives loyaltyData-driven personalisation builds loyalty. More than 60 per cent of people we spoke to confirmed improved loyalty to retailers who offered personalised experiences, sent them tailored promotions while shopping in store, and who demonstrated they understood their specific needs. Consumers want their shopping adventures to be supported and educated by online. They expect to be engaged, surprised and delighted by the immediate, the responsive and, most of all, the personal in their physical environments too.

Everything relies upon getting access to customer data while they shop, by finding a smarter and faster way to understand their behaviours. That means building your future business on an evolving selection of key physical fulfilment “showroom” environments, given relevance by a curated, highly personalised and immersive experience that delivers in-venue online connectivity.

Far-sighted retailers and customers get engagedPurple helps retailers replicate, then exceed, the knowledge-gathering potential of online connection in their physical locations. Far-sighted retailers and consumers alike believe that building engagement by improving the overall in-store experience is one of the best opportunities to revolutionise the appeal of physical retail and increase revenue.

By transforming stores into intelligent spaces, there’s a huge untapped opportunity to encourage even more visitors to log into your free Wi-Fi and benefit from the data. Venues with embedded smart technology are better able to understand who their customers are, how they behave in store, and what can best turn passive browsers into active, engaged buyers. Intelligent spaces deliver opportunities for service excellence and more rewarding experiences for shoppers and visitors – and they can do all of this while generating additional ROI.

Analytics in the real worldOur technology integrates sophisticated free-at-point-of-use Wi-Fi into stores, making it possible to monitor and manage traffic flow, occupancy and dwell duration. All can be viewed in real time to deliver considerable ROI possibilities, and drive repeat visits from shoppers keen to join loyalty programmes promising tailored, personalised promotions and rewards.

You don’t ever have to lose contact with a customer just because they leave your store. And you can seamlessly re-engage with them when they visit you online too. It’s a relationship that’s crucial in creating an exciting future for you and your physical stores.

Start creating your own personalised retail future – read our new white paper.

Since 2012, Purple has been championing the creation of intelligent spaces with its innovative Wi-Fi solutions for retail and other high-footfall venues globally.

Wherever you are on your retail transformation journey, Purple can help you deliver the most engaging, most insight-filled retail experiences, and use data to drive significant ROI improvements across your retail estate.

Originally published on Business Reporter


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