Retailers challenged to make in-store experience more engaging

Retailers must act now and take the opportunity to connect young consumers' online and offline experiences, or face losing sales, according to new research commissioned by technology firm Samsung.

The Future Shoppers Report, published last week, suggested that British high street and shopping centre environments are very popular for young adults looking to socialise with friends or browse products, but concluded retailers are missing out the immediate in-store opportunities to make sales.

Some 71% of young people surveyed said they find themselves in large retail environments at least once a fortnight, with two-thirds on the hunt for a specific item, but many indicated that they frequently opt to make their final purchase online – and increasingly through their mobile phone. Samsung reported that 44% will be searching for a better price online through their mobile device while they are in-store.

A total of 1,001 UK consumers aged 16 to 24 took part in the survey earlier this month, with nearly half of those questioned saying they would actively choose to visit retailers who use technology to enhance the experience. Respondents cited receiving discounts to their mobile devices as they pass a retailer, as well as the opportunity to customise products they like while in-store, as exciting future developments.

Graham Long, vice president of Samsung's enterprise business, said: "While we know that the high street has been losing ground to online shopping, young adults demonstrably enjoy shopping in the real world and are eager to engage with retailers that cater to their needs.

"Vendors who create exciting in-store environments, where shoppers can experience and interact with their products, could protect themselves from losing a customer to an online seller offering something as simple as a slight price discount."

He added: "Young consumers embrace technology that delivers value when they're shopping. Retailers need to be using technology to create a sense of retail theatre and bring their physical environment to life; they need to enhance the shopping experience."

Mobile is clearly at the heart of many retailers' plans to develop more meaningful and personal relationships with their customers.

The retailers Essential Retail has spoken to in recent months, including Monsoon Accessorize and Charles Tyrwhitt, view in-store tablet devices as a central part of their modern retailing strategy, while the likes of O2 and John Lewis are among the businesses that have said they are investigating the feasibility of proximity marketing via mobile phones.

It is against this backdrop that Essential Retail has teamed up with mobile operators association GSMA to launch a new survey, investigating how the wider retail industry plans to use mobile in the store environment – now and in the future.

The potential exists to bring together various technologies and retailer services, linked to consumers' smartphones, in order to create further engagement opportunities between business and their customers. Many retailers, including Argos, are experimenting with ways of using mobile as a communication channel with customers when they are in-store, but very few are currently using the technology available to maximise sales and boost shopper loyalty.

Paul Crutchley, retail engagement director at the GSMA, commented: "Mobile can and is starting to play a pivotal role in retail. The challenge is that, to date, solutions have focused on an individual retailer or the actual transactional experience. This is either fragmenting the high street, or only thinking about one mobile interaction, the transaction itself.

"Mobile services today can enable consumers to manage every aspect of the customer journey, from parking and entertainment to shopping, loyalty, coupons and payments. Merchants and brands who are constantly looking for ways to differentiate themselves can't afford to ignore these new mobile technologies."

Crutchley added: "Take paper loyalty programmes and couponing as an example. They have been at the heart of merchants' customer engagement strategies for many years, but mobile technologies and services have opened up opportunities to make loyalty and couponing more relevant and compelling for consumers,  providing easy-to-use offers tailored for current and prospective customers.

"Retailers should be focusing on broadening this engagement to include the entire consumer journey, from planning their travel into to town, to experience within the shopping centre and choosing where to go next. Retailers that don't think more holistically about the new technologies which enable that customer journey will lose the opportunity to build brand affinity and customer loyalty along with gaining potential market share."

If you are a retailer, click here to take part in the In-Store Shopper Journey Questionnaire. It's an anonymous survey, but respondents can add their email address for a chance to win an iPad Mini 3 just in time for Christmas.

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