It was wonderful to sit down with Mark Thomson to talk through the findings of the 15th Annual Global Shopper Study from Zebra Technologies.
Here’s what stood out for me:
💵 While nearly 75% of shoppers say inflation has caused them to delay purchases, they’re still returning to stores but most (76%) want to get in and out as quickly as possible.
😯 3 in 4 shoppers leave without the items they intended to purchase, with 49% blaming out-of-stocks.
📶 More than two-thirds of associates are concerned that shoppers are more connected to information than they are.
🙂 Seven-in-10 shoppers are satisfied with help from retail associates, compared to only 37% in 2007.
📱 Pandemic habits are sticking: approximately 90% of shoppers said they are likely to continue using technologies such as a personal shopping device, mobile cashless payment and self-checkout. And retailers are responding: nearly HALF of retailers said they would convert more manned till space to self-checkout in the future.
Imagine a world where shoppers can walk into a clothing store, scan the price tag on a dress, and complete payment on the spot. Imagine a world where virtual stylists allow shoppers to seamlessly pay by link, or a world where instore shoppers collecting their online orders aren’t just handed a package but are greeted with personalised recommendations to complement their purchase.
This world isn’t so far off, according to Manhattan Associates Solutions Executive Joe Kamara. “We’ve built a unified platform that brings the best of traditional Point of Sale (POS), order management and store operations together so you can orchestrate these different flows.”
In conversation with Natalie Berg, Retail Analyst and Founder of NBK Retail, Kamara said that the next generation POS is being accelerated by the pandemic-driven shift to digital. While in crisis mode last year, retailers quickly pivoted to ensure that stores could continue serving customers via click & collect and kerbside pickup, while simultaneously processing online returns instore. Kamara believes that this behaviour will outlast the pandemic, reinforcing the need for retailers to ensure they are equipped with the right tools to seamlessly serve the customer across multiple touchpoints.
Considering POS as part of the customer experience journey
For many retailers around the globe, this is becoming basic hygiene. Even in the years leading up to the pandemic, the role of POS was being drastically redefined as the industry adapted for the digital era.
Pre-purchase – traditionally, retailers took a store-only view of the customer and the sharing of data and shopper preferences across channels was limited. Today, there is an enterprise view of the customer, and retailers have full visibility into purchase history as well as sharing of digital data.
Purchase– when it came to out-of-stocks, the experience used to be “filled with roadblocks and friction”, according to Kamara. Today, however, thanks to retailers’ endless aisle capabilities, shoppers can make a single purchase for items that are available both in and out of the store.
Post-purchase – it’s difficult to cast our minds back to a time when stores would not accept online returns, given the ease and proliferation of choice today when it comes to returning goods purchased online.
The industry has come a long way to meet the needs of the 21st century shopper who wants to shop on their terms, irrespective of device or channel used. But, as we witness a post-pandemic acceleration in the convergence of physical and digital retail, it’s imperative that retailers continue to move the dial, removing any remaining friction points from the instore experience. This is no time for complacency.
For example, if we go back to the perennial problem of out-of-stocks, it’s hard to believe that even in this day and age, only a small minority of retailers are capable of offering in-store purchasing from another store’s inventory. From a customer experience perspective, this feels entirely unacceptable given the industry’s broader efforts to digitize the physical store. Not only do retailers risk losing the sale but it can be detrimental to brand loyalty in the long-term too.
In order to meet customers’ supercharged expectations, retailers must adopt a sell/fulfil/engage anywhere mentality. However, when it comes to future-ready POS implementation, retailers often make three common mistakes, according to Kamara:
Adopting a store-only plan, damaging future agility
Minimal investment in change (e.g. limited budget for user training; limited project communication plan)
Selecting a “proven” vendor with old technology
All too often, retail organisations are still thinking in silos. Instead, Kamara recommends that retailers develop a unified commerce roadmap (POS + order management), make a clear plan for organisational change and select the right vendor capable of delivering on the long-term.
You can find out more about Manhattan Associates’ POS solutions here.
Big media day yesterday covering the news that Amazon has debuted its checkout-free store concept in London.
This is watershed moment for U.K. retail. Amazon is known for disrupting the status quo, raising customer expectations and forcing competitors to raise their game. Remember Amazon is a tech company first, retailer second. The big question is – does Amazon really want to become Britain’s biggest supermarket or perhaps it’s more lucrative to license this tech to… everyone else? Either way, Amazon transformed the checkout experience online and will now do the same in-store. Goodbye, friction!
We all know it’s only a matter of time beforeAmazon Go reaches UK shores. Trademarks have long been registered, the rumours have been flying and, havingdebuted in New York Citylast month, it’s fair to say that Amazon has an appetite for urban expansion.
This explainsSainsbury’s recent scramble to open the first till-free store in the UK, a PR coup ahead ofAmazon’s inevitable incursion.
And they’re not alone – pretty much every grocer from Tesco to Marks & Spencer is trialling scan-and-go technology, self-ordering kiosks are now the norm at McDonald’s and Argosquietly launched its first self-service digital store last month. Time is the new currency.
Checkout-free shopping will particularly cater to busy city workers on their lunch break and it will undoubtedly hit travel retail hard – till-free will become the norm in airports and train stations five years from now. But is this really the future of retail?
The customer experience is paramount, but today ‘frictionless’ often translates as ‘soulless’. Most shoppersstill value human interaction in-storeand, as we’ve witnessed with self-checkout, there will be resistance among some shoppers to do the heavy lifting themselves.
Take the new Sainsbury’s trial, for example: for a store that’s all about reducing friction, there’s certainly a lot of it initially as shoppers have to download the app and get used to scanning QR codes.
Let’s not forget that, a few years ago,Morrisonsscaled back its self-checkout ambitions in response to customer feedback. There has been a lot of hype about automation, but when it comes to responding to disruption, retailers must not lose the human touch.
Checkout-free stores can be controversial. Not only because they will accelerate the number of retail job losses (according to the Office for National Statistics, 25% of supermarket checkout jobs disappeared between 2011 and 2017), but also because going cashless can be seen as discriminatory towards customers without bank accounts or smartphones.
This summer, Philadelphia will be the first US city to prohibit cashless stores, and a growing number of cities are considering a similar ban. Amazon has had little choice but to begrudgingly adapt, and its shiny new Manhattan store is the first Go branch to accept cash.
Lastly, we must acknowledge the elephant in the room: theft. Today, it feels unnatural to bypass the checkout, and Amazon says it takes customers several visits before they no longer feel like they’re shoplifting.
But theft is a genuine concern and was one of the reasons Walmart shelved its scan-and-go programme in the US last year, with a former executive joking that the scheme should have been simply called “‘go’ because the customers can’t seem to ‘scan’ anything”.
The biggest retailer in the world is now embracing a mobile point-of-sale solution. Equipping more staff with handheld devices so shoppers can pay on the spot is a solid compromise – you still provide a frictionless checkout experience while taking the onus off the customer and alleviating concerns over shrinkage.
I don’t doubt that the digital store is the future of retail or that checkout-free shopping will appeal to certain customers and shopping missions. But consumer adoption will be slow, and they will never replace manned checkouts entirely, which is why the hysteria over till-free stores is unwarranted.
Automation is coming but, in the process, retailers must ensure they don’t kill the experience they are working so hard to improve.
I’m so excited to launch, in partnership with retail technology leader Red Ant, the first of a three-part series of whitepapers to explore how the retail industry will have to embrace the digital store and seamless shopping to survive, from frictionless checkout to hyper-personalisation and clienteling. There’s no doubt that the industry has undergone seismic change in the last few years, and it’s not over yet.
store is not dead
Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed the birth of the
‘on-my-terms’ shopper and the seemingly unstoppable rise of e-commerce. Today’s
ubiquitously connected shoppers are firmly in the driving seat, and retailers
are scrambling to keep up with dramatic shifts in both customer behaviour and
It’s clear that not all retailers have been equipped to deal with
the accelerated pace of change facing the industry. As such, we’ve seen
high-profile casualties on the high street as well as record numbers of job
losses and store closures. And we should be bracing ourselves for more short-term
pain as the industry reconfigures for the digital age. Although it’s not quite
a retail apocalypse, there are a couple of important points that we must
We have an oversupply of retail space. According to the Office for National Statistics, online sales accounted for less than 5% of UK retail sales in 2009. Fast forward to 2019 – a whopping 20% of retail sales now take place online. Although e-commerce shouldn’t be viewed as the death knell for the high street, retailers must streamline their store portfolios to better reflect consumer demand. The future is fewer, more impactful stores.
There is no room for mediocre retail. In today’s climate, you have to be on top of your game. The retailers that are struggling right now share some common traits – they lack agility, differentiation, relevance. They try to be all things to all people. They don’t have a compelling purpose. And having an iconic brand doesn’t make you immune to the broader challenges facing the high street. This is retail Darwinisim – put simply, you evolve or die. But, for those brands willing to adapt, this is a fantastically exciting time to be in retail.
Stores will undoubtedly continue to play a critical role in retail
for decades to come, but, in a nutshell, customers will expect to shop on their terms, not the terms dictated to
them by the retailer. This means that high street retailers need to ensure
they’re saving customers’ time or enhancing it. There is no longer a middle
ground. We believe that stores of the future will be:
– to keep up with online retail
– to distance themselves from online
Ahub for fulfilment – to bridge the gap between online and
Those retailers who use the right
digital platform to transform and tailor in-store experiences will be able to
ensure differentiation from rivals and relevance to customers.