We have been holed away inside for what’s coming up to a year and a half, and along with many across the world we are clamoring to be out and about with friends and family (and even co-workers) to experience the world around us.
During the past 18 months, it seems some things have fundamentally changed. What were considered some of our most native shopping habits have been transformed into a series of online clicks.
Last year, Waitrose reported that more than three quarters of people in the UK now do at least some online grocery shopping. Ocado thinks it is here to stay, saying “the switch to internet shopping amid the coronavirus lockdown has led to a ‘permanent redrawing’ of the retail landscape”.
By now, if you don’t have wine, whiskey or razors shipped to your door each month, you are likely to be the anomaly among your neighbors. Research from Barclaycard Payments says the subscription economy has grown to be worth £323m, with each household in the UK now typically spending £552 a year on sign-up services. Many of our habits and hobbies have changed.
However, past travel or socializing habits that we once had should make a return. The commute routine (for a few days a week) will be as familiar as ever. Celebrations with loved ones will return, and the ceremony that comes with it: taking time to find the perfect gift, or maybe forgetting and picking one up at the last minute.
The next few years may reveal a new reality. The physical-digital blend will again have a new balance, with a change in the way humans interact with the world around them – one that may appear similar to pre-Covid-19, post-Covid-19, or maybe even something new altogether.
What does that mean for brands, and how they meet both their loyal and potential customers in this new space? In our new reality, how brands engage with the customer on their own terms will be more important than ever.
Brands must respond
Brands will need to engage customers by creating a consistent experience that is grounded in the brands’ values and purpose, and is tailored to the customer.
A clear channel strategy: The myriad of channels that customer interaction can come from, and the sheer amount of interactions generated, creates a challenge for brands to understand the needs of individuals. Omnichannel experiences should effortlessly integrate different communication channels. This approach makes best use of customer insights to ensure consistency through all contact channels. Having a cohesive brand experience through multiple channels will enhance the journey and drive engagement and conversion.
Leveraging data: To service constantly evolving customer needs, retail businesses will have to develop a consistent view and better understanding of their customer relationships. These will continuously evolve by layering in new data from each interaction. Having consistent and easily accessible information and tools, and a skilled, flexible and empowered workforce, has never been more important to deliver seamless service and experience.
Although we’ve seen major shifts to online shopping habits due to Covid-19, the role of the store is still important – maybe in the future more than ever before.
Role of the physical store
The store will still be used for the human experience, to inspire customers and to allow them to feel more immersed with the brand in the context of a physical space. The store also allows customers to connect with friends and family on a day out, and by having touchpoints with sales staff it gives faces to brands, allowing the in-store experience to flourish.
As the world opens up again, there is an opportunity for retail to offer a personalized physical experience while maintaining their online presence – a merger of physical and digital into the same experience.
Sephora’s ‘Store Companion’ is a great use case of future potential. Sephora provides a personalized customer experience and mission. The companion turns on as soon as the customer walks into the store. It provides customers with access to information on products in-store that they looked at online and shares their wish-list product availability, as well as what’s on in-store.
Sephora is also effective at cross-selling and up-selling in-store based on digital activity. Using Sephora Color Match, shoppers are recommended specific products and can use the selfie camera to get recommendations on makeup based on what compliments the customer’s skin-tone.
Lastly, Sephora is a great example of enabling staff to be a part of a rich customer experience: make-over consultants are able to add the products used into the customer’s app, allowing customers to track products and techniques used for the next visit.
As brands enhance their digital-physical blending of experiences, there is a relatively hidden benefit that has long eluded retailers in the physical space: delivering store insights, at the scale of online, into the customer data ecosystem. Utilizing an app (in the case of Sephora) provides brands with customer data to make enhanced decisions around store layouts, foot traffic and product mix (to name a few), as well as a larger understanding of online and in-store customer habits that has the ability to power the next generation of shopping experiences.
CornerShop – a live retail test and learn space
The world of retailing is facing a fundamental transformation, and in order to help our retail and consumer goods clients survive and thrive, we have put our experience and capabilities together to design and launch a new hybrid retail experience to test new ways to shop, engage and build loyalty with customers.
Brought to you by Capgemini in partnership with SharpEnd, the connected experience platform, alongside global media platform The Drum, CornerShop is a retail innovation store. It is a live retail space in which retailers and brands can explore, develop and test tomorrow’s shopping innovations in a feasible way that can be implemented and scaled today. We are getting feedback from real customers in the heart of London.
The set-up of the store explores the opportunities and intersections of four fundamental aspects of tomorrow’s shopping experiences:
Purpose: The store of the future needs to anchor itself closely to a purpose, but also enable customers to fulfill their own purposes, which can be anything from sustainability to dietary needs to self-expression. CornerShop considers at the core of its design the customer purpose – who people are, and why they are shopping.
Personalization: Retail spaces must continually improve on delivering personalization that is meaningful to customers and works hand-in-hand with online. CornerShop explores what’s useful, what’s not and where the line blurs from helpful to creepy when it comes to personalization.
Automation: The store of the future should enable staff to provide richer and deeper experiences by providing timely customer data and allowing them to be part of the larger experience. We explore how we can provide better customer service and experiences through data and how to free up staff time for more customer-valuable activities.
Augmentation: Through augmentation, retail spaces can create new ways of blending physical and digital to provide an enhanced experience. CornerShop explores not-so-distant technology that blends physical and digital – augmented reality (AR), interactive screens and the personal device being the guide through the store.
The rise of exciting new technologies is utilized throughout the store at key stages and inflection points of the customer journey. Our ambition is to partner with brands to reimagine the business of shopping and help develop a hybrid experience that blends digital and physical in order to engage and retain loyal customers.
In this new digital world, opportunities in Inventive Shopping will disrupt the shopping experience of today and become a powerful engine for growth. We are excited to explore these boundaries with brands and customers alike. Please get in touch to find out more.
Joe Batista, senior manager at Frog UK, a part of Capgemini Invent.