The physical store is an essential part of the overall retail experience – but it must be connected to a company’s entire offering across multiple channels.

This is the message to be taken out of new research from PwC, which has found consumers overwhelmingly still prefer physical stores as an integral part of the overall shopping process.

The research also provides a clear message: the retail experience both off and online needs to evolve for various reasons.

The research is contained in a new publication, “Connected and Curated – Long Live the Store”. The message is clear: with change afoot in businesses, retail or otherwise, being able to ‘connect’ the dots through technology and existing systems offers a far superior experience – anticipating and surpassing customer needs.

Just as we have described the process of the “always-on” customer, who searches for specific touch points, the connected retail experience provides a holistic framework. One in which separate channels are not considered apart, but simply parts multiple elements of a single brand experience.

Creating a connected experience

Connected Retail Picture 3

Based on interviews with 1,000 Australian consumers, the Connected Store survey shows 68% still use the physical store as an important part of the shopping process.

But 37% say the inability to touch and feel a product is the main issue with online shipping.

As a result, retail businesses are in a quandary. The importance of the physical store most be balanced alongside a renewed approach to digital solutions – but these channels cannot simply be relegated to their own spaces. They need to be connected and work together as one.

Connected Retail Picture 1Retail has entered an environment in which multiple channels operate as a touch point for the one brand experience. PwC’s Global Retail leader, Stuart Harker, says the “connected store” is one that identifies customer experiences and uses data to create more elegant offerings.

“The relevance of the physical store took a hit with the rise of e commerce throughout the early to mid-2000s,”Harker says. “However we’re now seeing demand for greater connectivity between online and offline. Retailers need to combine the best of the digital world, in terms of customisation, availability, and price, with the physical world to create a differentiated in-store experience.”

With uptake of digital mobile technology, Australian consumers are now ‘always on’. In the not-too-distant future consumers will expect the products they research online to be available in their local store, immediately. Even something as seemingly simple as this requires a significant investment in areas like predictive analytics and smart sourcing.

With advances in technology and transport, Australian retailers can source directly from international suppliers and ‘cut out the middle man’ to deliver not only cost and productivity benefits, but greater choice and flexibility for customers.

For all its benefits, digital technology has been unable to eliminate our desire to interact with a product in a tactile way when we’re shopping. The message for retailers is to use digital technology to create a connected store, a store that packages the best of the online and offline worlds to offer something new, innovative, and exciting.

Connected Retail Picture 2Where to from here

For businesses to truly adopt a connected experience, there is more than just a deep understanding required. The Future of Retail: Consumer Adaptive Retailing outlines specific steps businesses should take and strategies they should adopt.

Optimised Analytics 

Data-driven insights for mapping the customer journey. Increasingly businesses, especially in the retail space, have access to an enormous amount of data which should be used to focus and improve their decision making.

A Networked Supply Chain

Businesses must revolutionise their back-end. During the rise of ecommerce organisation have made the mistake of separating inventory for separate channels. In order to create a connected experience, the supply chain must treat each platform agnostically.

Agile and Integrated Technology

Specific technology for the retail experience is an important part of the connected store. In Disney World, for instance, visitors are given a wearable device which acts as a hotel key, purchasing device for food and access to attractions.

(This technology also informs Optimised Analytics, providing data to help with forecasting and budgeting).

A new approach

These strategies, combined, form part of an approach to retailing which does not prioritise one channel over another, bust instead takes a 21st century view – there are no more separate stores. Instead, there is one store – and multiple, equally valid experiences.

Visit the report page to download your copy of “Connected and Curated – Long Live the Store” report.



John Riccio

John is a former partner at PwC Australia and the founder of Digital Pulse.

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