But too many are under-playing this vital element.
Comment from Phill Reynolds, Managing Director of Cestrian
“There’s no doubt that omnichannel – after years of discussion – is now up and running in UK retail.
Pioneers have embraced the concept and we’re already seeing incredible examples of creative thinking and investment in new technologies.
For the forward thinking retailer, with visionary boards and access to extensive budgets, it’s an exciting time.
But for a silent majority, for whom the continual pressures of low budgets, decreasing footfall and tightening resources are the day-to-day reality, these examples set the bar very high – and are understandably unnerving.
Yet too many still consider omnichannel to be a digital challenge – and in this regard, a competitive threat. But this misses the fundamental truth of the concept; that it should encompass every channel – and that means connecting with the customer in-store as well as online.
It doesn’t mean that retailers who are already spending on visual merchandising can sit back, complacent in the knowledge that they have this box ticked.
Online shopping has created a new retail reality, which necessitates a change to in-store thinking. The ability to browse and view products online means that for many, the store is now simply a final step in an integrated journey – or even a mid-step; as shoppers shortlist products online, test them out in-store and then return online to buy.
In this context, in-store communications need to play as much of a directional as a promotional role, while the emphasis should be on closing and augmenting a sale.
The central rules of good retail; exciting the customer, converting the sale, upselling where possible, remain, but the tools have changed.
Consider for example, a shopper who has viewed a coat online and visits a store to try it on. Using an LCD screen integrated into a modular fabric display, the store runs a video of a model wearing the coat on a catwalk, while placing it next to bags, accessories and other complementary products to enhance the sale. A ‘one day only’ discount within the display requires the customer to input a code into their mobile and show it at the checkout to get their 10% off.
Building a ‘story’ around the garment brings it to life in a way that flat visuals alone cannot. Making the story more personal with contextual lifestyle imagery and a multi-sensory experience means the customer is much more likely to view the product as ‘right for me’. The discount code helps to close the sale, while the mobile data provided by the code scan allows the dialogue to continue and creates a stronger connection between the customer and the brand.
And in reality, the entire journey costs little more than a traditional merchandising approach.
The good news for high street retail is that there’s currently no substitute for the tactile experience of shopping in-store. But if Black Friday and Cyber Monday taught us anything, it’s that consumers are increasingly happy to shop elsewhere.
If retailers can harness the very best of online retail and create a similarly consistent and dynamic experience in-store, they can offer customers the best of both worlds.”
Cestrian has produced a new guide; Visual Selling in 2015: The Retailer’s Toolkit, which investigates the omnichannel opportunity and provides guidance for retailers to enhance the in-store experience to meet the new retail reality.