Is the hype around the retail store being dead simply that, hype? Well, maybe. While the current role of the physical store may be dead, its usefulness, convenience and value are not.

What is the new brick-and-mortar reality?

Retailers that are thriving in today’s disrupted and highly competitive environment have transformed the role of the brick-and-mortar store to effectively bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds. In fact, contrary to the hype that the physical store is a thing of the past, pure-play digital retailers are venturing into the brick-and-mortar space, demonstrating that both worlds need to converge to enhance the customer experience.

Retailers are making a decided shift in focus from channel to customer, led by the growing demand for seamless and personalized customer experiences. In this year’s CGI Client Global Insights, 87% of retail and consumer services executives we interviewed say they continue to invest in improving the customer experience, making it their number one business and IT priority.

We also are witnessing a growing need for an all-encompassing customer experience—one that brings together the entire customer journey across all channels to provide a unified experience. For example, an international cosmetic chain effectively merged all experiences to make the journey absolutely seamless, regardless of channel, customer location and how customers begin or end their buying journey.

The use of “apps, services and third parties” has also increased in importance. Approximately 71% of the retail executives we interviewed are implementing apps that support collaboration across the boundaries of the organization to offer new channels and experiences to customers. One of the world’s leading coffee chains, for example, uses an app to geolocate customers, push curated content, and enable customers to order a beverage and pick it up in-store at the click of a button. Bundling the experience with convenience ultimately builds loyalty and increases the overall customer lifetime value (CLV).

What does it really mean to transform from channel-focused to customer-centric?

In today’s retail world, customers increasingly demand a seamless and superlative experience, both online and in-store. They also expect the convenience of switching between channels quickly and efficiently. In grocery retail, for example, as the use of click and collect continues to increase, retailers will be required to interact with customers in a different way to remain competitive. Learning about purchasing behaviors by channel and being able to tailor this experience will lead to a more seamless and enhanced customer experience, regardless of whether the customer shops online or in-store.

In addition, as new technologies emerge, it is becoming crucial to extend the brick-and-mortar experience to online channels. In fact, having both an online and offline presence has become a requirement for many shoppers to even consider buying a product. Recent studies show that utilizing multiple channels increases the average transaction size by 15-35% and increases loyalty by 10-15%. Given that more than 80% of customers first check products online before shopping in-store, and a third check prices on a mobile device while at the store, creating a seamless, frictionless and pain-free experience is more important now than ever.  

One of the largest sporting goods retailers is a good case in point. The company can handle any kind of delivery method and has complete inventory visibility across all channels. Their entire product portfolio is available across the globe, regardless of the channel, and customers have the convenience of a single login from all their devices. This allows the retailer to obtain a true 360-degree view of the customer and provide an unparalleled and truly seamless customer experience.

Key recommendations to ensure a data-rich and secure omni-channel future

Omni-channel strategies continue to evolve and improve at a rapid pace. However, some retailers have yet to fully embrace omni-channel—a reluctance that stems largely from an inability to implement effective strategies. As technology advances rapidly, the value of omni-channel will also increase and retailers will need to invest significantly to integrate both front- and back-end systems. Equally important, and perhaps more challenging, will be making the big shift from a channel-centric approach to a customer-centric one.

Here are some recommendations to achieve this effectively:

  • Consolidate customer and product data Centralizing this data enables valuable insights into customer behavior, creating opportunities to cross sell, upsell and ultimately develop a better understanding of the customer.  
  • Understand each customer journey Analyzing each customer’s journey enables the streamlining of processes (purchasing, pricing, etc.), which further helps to identify synergies that encourage cross selling and upselling.
  • Integrate digital capabilities into the overall strategy – As lines continue to blur between online and offline, leveraging digital channels to facilitate the best online/offline experience will be key to ensuring a rewarding customer journey.
  • Secure the omni-channel journey – With the increased use of digital channels and mobile payment methods, customers are demanding better protection of their personal data. Investing in platforms that provide proactive cybersecurity can often help to prevent cyber attacks before they happen.
  • Implement a flexible and agile infrastructure With customer behaviors constantly evolving, a flexible and agile infrastructure will help to enable market differentiation. At the same time, providing the right data in real time will allow customers to enjoy the seamless experience they expect.

Research clearly indicates that the majority of consumers desire access to multiple channels during the shopping journey—including the physical store. In fact, the more channels, the better. What can retailers do to offer customers the most exciting and rewarding journey? Join CGI experts at NRF 2019 to discuss how to achieve omni-channel success and find new ways to exceed customer expectations.


About this author

Retail & Consumer Services icon

Retail, consumer and services

As change accelerates, CGI helps organizations become more agile and customer-centric digital enterprises. CGI experts bring full-service offerings to the retail, consumer and services industries underpinned by an extensive portfolio of CGI-developed solutions. These software applications, reusable frameworks and delivery methods represent years of investment ...