The reopening of the UK highstreet and non-essential shops has given the retail industry much cause to celebrate.
But alongside news of 7am queues for certain stores on Monday 12th April, there has also been a lot of news centred around shoppers’ habits being irreparably changed since the pandemic.
Many young people in particular are expressing their desire to continue shopping online rather than visit high street stores.
And with news about big hitters such as Topshop / Arcadia and Debenhams closing, how will the high street fare?
Most importantly, how can retail brands keep maximising their online offering to make sure customers have a seamless experience both online and offline?
Digital: here to stay
The most important thing for retail brands to remember as the high street reopens is that online shopping is very much here to stay.
What will be different is that digital is going to become even more intertwined with in-person, and become even more of a core channel than ever before.
This will be the case despite shops reopening and some customers therefore choosing to buy in store.
With some stores opening and some not, though, the most important thing for retail brands is to make sure the experience their customers have is seamless – whether they are shopping online, offline, or a mixture of both.
The skill retail brands need to harness, then, is making sure those channels work effortlessly together and complement each other.
Omnichannel marketing 101
Omnichannel marketing is absolutely a retail marketer’s best friend as they navigate the new shopping reality, as it allows them to deliver a joined up communications strategy wherever and however their customers choose to shop.
The key to a robust omnichannel marketing strategy starts with having a clear view of your customer. When you know how, when, where and why they are shopping the rest is easy, as you’ll know exactly what communications to send them and when.
This starts with gathering as many data points as you can about your customers and compiling them all together in one place so you have a 360 view of each customer.
Looking at historic as well as current behavioural data helps to identify individual customer preferences.
Taking a look to see what customers did before this third lockdown could be a good indication of whether or not they’ll return to the store, stick to online, or pursue a mixture of both.
For example, did they purchase online with you at all when stores were open during that period?
The type of data retail marketers look at to segment their audience can reveal a lot about behaviour patterns and helpfully predict what customers may do now.
Of course, it is not enough to make decisions purely based on historical data – retail marketers need to be constantly gathering up to date data points to make sure they have the clearest, most up to date view of each individual customer.
This ensures that whatever marketing communications you send will be as relevant as possible to each individual customer.
Messaging: what to say
With constantly changing behaviours, it can be hard to know what to say in your communications to each customer.
A good tactic could be to send out an email to let customers know that though stores are open, they can still find all the same great deals online if they don’t feel comfortable returning to the store.
This is a great way to let customers know you are giving them the same treatment, however they may choose to shop.
Reassure them that the online experience they’ve been used to this past year isn’t going anywhere and explain that you’ll always be giving them the best customer experience – however they choose to shop.
On the other hand, you could also send some ‘welcome back’ emails to customers that you know shopped in store prior to the most recent lockdown, to let them know you are keen to see them in store should they choose to head there.
TKMaxx, for example, had queues outside their stores on April 12th, and used a welcome back email to let shoppers know that they were back open for business – perhaps this tactic was the reason behind the lengthy queues!
A really seamless in-store and online experience occurs when customers receive exactly the same personalised experience in-store that they had online – and vice versa.
With this in mind, can you make sure in-store personalisation happens in the same way it does online? Customers are used to this online now, so can you give it to them in-store too?
Achieving this will truly give your customers a seamless, joined up on and offline experience they will keep coming back to.
As the high street beckons it’s important to give customers the best of both worlds. Navigating new shopping behaviours will continue to be changeable for both customers and brands, and so ensuring a seamless omni-channel experience for customers retail brands can be confident they are delivering the perfect ‘best of both’ affair.