Stores dominate as primary sales channel and will continue to play a key role in retail’s future, survey finds

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Research from customer journey management solutions provider Qmatic UK Ltd has revealed that the majority of sales for multi-channel retailers in the UK still come from in-store transactions.

According to Qmatic managing director Vanessa Walmsley, this highlights the importance of the bricks-and-mortar environment. However, with online sales growing, retailers now need to master a channel agnostic approach to meet the shifting expectations of today’s consumer.

The research, which surveyed 100 retailers with between 501 and 3,000 employees, found that for over half (58%), the majority of sales come from purchases made in-store. On the other hand, only 24% make the majority of their sales online.

Furthermore, the research also revealed that bricks-and-mortar stores are not at the end of their life, now or in the near future, with four in ten (40%) stating that their organisation’s physical stores will be just as important, if not more important in 2030, compared to only 23% who feel that by this time their organisation’s physical stores will be obsolete.

Online shopping is showing most growth so far in 2017 for nearly three quarters (74%) of respondents’ organisations. This is supported by IMRG and Capgemini, who revealed that UK online retail sales reached £133bn in 2016. For Vanessa, considering the key role both in-store and online play, a channel agnostic approach is crucial.

She commented: “The research clearly highlights the important role of the in-store environment, now and in the future. While online is snowballing, this channel will by no means replace physical stores. Instead, a blend of in-store, online and mobile will continue to shape retail’s future. However, with consumers now conditioned to heightened levels of convenience, retailers now need to adopt a channel agonistic, omnichannel approach to ensure the customer experience remains consistent across all channels, with the service received in-store matching that of online, and vice-versa.

“Seamless service and shopping experiences are sources of real competitive advantage and sales are more likely to happen when the experience is clear, efficient, and personalised. But all too often the customer journey continues to be unnecessarily rife with friction points that turn off shoppers and negatively affect retail performance. To address this, retailers need to identify the bottlenecks or friction points that hinder shoppers from finding and buying the products they need and should therefore focus on creating extreme cross-channel convenience by harnessing the technology that’s available today. By way of example, in-store humanoid robots can offer a personalised service, offering a valuable touchpoint for retailers where in-store friction – such as queuing or trying to find something – is eliminated.”

Vanessa also highlighted the importance of optimising the in-store environment for today’s mobile customer. She said: “Mobile technology enables customers and employees to move around the retail environment, either while they await their service interaction or as they are engaged in the interaction itself. Retailers can offer a personalised experience – via a mobile app on a tablet for example – understanding and processing the customers’ needs as they walk in the door.”

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