According to a 2016 report released by the National Australia Bank, online spending increased by 12.4% over the last year. Online sales now equate to 6.7% of traditional retail sales in Australia, which is only expected to grow.
But early predictions that online sales would take over brick-and-mortar retail have not eventuated as expected.
Instead of sounding the death knell for in-store sales, as retailers embrace new technologies to provide an exceptional customer experience, the steady growth of online sales is breathing new life into physical stores. So much so, that some of the biggest online retailers have opened physical stores to allow customers to experience their products in the flesh. Amazon plans to open its sixth physical store in 2017, located in New York City.
Customers were once given a selection of buying channels to choose from, but all channels were separate. Now ‘multi-channel retailing’ has been replaced with ‘omni-channel retailing’ – a strategic combination of in-store and online shopping designed to enable customers to interact with more than one sales channel during any transaction. They can buy online and pick up in-store, or use their mobile phone whilst in-store to research a product or make a purchase. Alternatively, they can buy in-store and initiate a return online.
We’re excited about developments in technology in the retail space. Here are some of our favourites.
1. Oak Labs is developing technology such as connected/smart fitting rooms that can help retailers better understand customers’ shopping experiences.
The Oak Labs ‘Oak Mirror’ is an interactive, touch-screen mirror that empowers shoppers to customise their fitting room’s ambiance, explore product recommendations and digitally seek assistance from store associates.
According to Oak Labs, “We are bridging the worlds of tech and retail, designing elegant, intuitive customer experiences that will transform the way we think about shopping forever.”
2. Booodl is a search engine and physical store discovery service that makes it easy for shoppers to find the store selling what they want, in a convenient location.
Booodl founder George Freney says he wants to make sure the experience of tracking down what customers want in physical stores is as seamless as finding it online. George says, “Australian retailers are playing hide and seek with their consumers and we want to fix this problem”. Booodl’s contention is that every day, millions of people walk right past the stores that sell what they need, and they don’t even know it. They are addressing this problem with what they call Store Discovery Optimisation (SDO).
For retailers, Booodl increases shopper visits and sales. By registering for Booodl and being optimised for discovery, retailers can ensure the right shopper finds the store.
For shoppers, they can see stores nearby stocking the product they’re after. They can see the details about a store including location, opening hours and stock. They can chat with the store about availability, or add a product to their list to receive notifications when they are near a store that sells it.
4. Afterpay was launched in Sydney in 2014, enabling shoppers to buy what they want and pay for it on a payment plan over instalments.
Afterpay can be fully integrated with an online store, and is also available in-store using a mobile phone to complete the purchase. Approval is instant via debit card or credit card.
Hundreds of major retailers now offer this service, including Country Road, Witchery, Rebel Sport, The Athlete’s Foot and Super Cheap Auto, to name just a few.
in the battle to gain and maintain a competitive edge, digital technology integrations such as these are helping retailers of all sizes to provide a holistic online and offline experience for their customers.