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Latest Issue: Nov/Dec 17

Adapting to a mobile world to avoid failure

A significant number of retailers have faced a testing first half of 2017.

The Centre of Retail Research recently revealed that by the end of the March, twelve retailers had entered into administration, including well-known high street name Jaeger. The big companies that didn’t fold, sadly suffered casualties including Etsy which announced in May that it was cutting 8 per cent of its workforce and that its CEO was stepping down due to the struggle of meeting consumer expectation. Figures from Visa also showed that spending on the high street fell by 1.3 per cent in March, with experts and analysts now predicting that the number of retail failures will sadly increase throughout the rest of the year.

Of course, there are a number of factors impacting this rather gloomy outlook of the retail industry – from rising business rates, the fall in the value of sterling and rises in the national living wage. But having reflected on what went wrong for Etsy, experts are generally in agreement that its struggle to convert sales through its mobile web platform was a significant factor in the challenging reshape it faced.

Maximising the experience users have on your marketplace through mobile is the bread and butter to creating an engaged consumer base. Etsy has experienced issues with getting the right product in the eyeline of consumers at the right time. It is clear now more than ever that adapting services to meet changing consumer buying habits is essential for retailers to survive.

Maximising mobile

This year, Debenhams’s boss Sergio Bucher announced that all the growth in retail sales had come from consumer shopping via mobile and, consequently, the company now plans to make it easier for customers to buy through their phones as well as receive personalised promotions through this medium.

Mobile is much quicker, easier, and more convenient way to get the goods we want. It has redefined the way we shop and over half of online sales are now made through mobile devices. As such, many brands are having to quickly respond to this shift in consumer behaviour.

At this time, many retailers regard mobile as the glue between their traditional bricks and mortar stores and the online world. More and more customers are using the two channels to gain the best customer experience possible; stock checking via their mobiles or finding out whether they could get a better deal with a brand online. This shift to mobile is having a profound impact on customer loyalty and satisfaction too. Consumers now demand instantaneous gratification from any interaction with a retailer and the very nature of the ‘always on’ society means that consumers expect to be able to engage with retailers 24/7.

From apps and social media, to SMS, MMS and email the mobile communications landscape is a complicated one, and because consumers want highly personalised communications with a brand, that means talking to them via the channel that best suits their circumstances and preferences. It also means communicating with them across channels seamlessly, with conversations on one platform contextualising those on another.

However, these days, being able to communicate with your customers when they need you isn’t enough. Retailers need to be prepared to communicate with them on their terms.

Unlocking data intelligence

A one size fits all approach to customer engagement no longer pays dividends. The focus is on data, which enables contextually relevant cross channel conversations between retailers and their diverse customer base. Leveraging data on how customers like to engage with a certain brand will be instrumental in enabling retailers to develop a method of communication that individual consumers will react well to.

To capture data, store owners can make better use of the systems and devices they already own, such as the POS (point of sale) system. When a customer makes a purchase in store, retailers can capture data to know, again, who is visiting the store and can then push personalised messages and offers to them. Some retailers are doing this by offering to send an e-receipt via email, and there is an opportunity to send offers with that receipt. Such communications have a far higher open rate than unsolicited broadcast messages, and given that they are based on a pre-existing relationship, likely to be better received.

Using WiFi as a data capture tool is another route to successfully acquiring data. By offering free WiFi, retailers are able to gather hugely valuable data to help build a deeper understanding of the customers visiting their stores, and indeed when they are repeat customers. What’s more, for one time visitors, retailers can incentivise their return by delivering personalised discounts – via email or SMS – that references their previous interactions or transactions with a particular brand.

By bringing various data sources together, retailers can begin to engage with customers in more meaningful ways, pushing offers to customers based on any previous interactions and transactions they’ve had with the brand, tailored to their location and purchasing preferences. The result? The customer feels like an individual and that goes a long way in boosting customer loyalty at a time when the retail industry is struggling.

Right messages, right people

Getting the right messages to the right people at the right time puts a certain retailer at ‘front of mind’ with customers at the times they are most likely to want to buy from you. This drives revenue and, as a result, retailers can avoid the unfortunate fate experienced by other companies in the first half of this year.

As consumerdemand for highly personalised experiences via mobile increases, retailers hold the responsibility to get this right and deliver an unparalleled customer experience. Only by doing so can retailers demonstrate their worthiness for a customer’s loyalty.

by Simon Brennan, VP Sales, Engage Hub