By Greg Liset, Head of Propositions
Tue Apr 25 2017
We all know that customers change their shopping habits more than they change their shoes. We also know that retailers are constantly under pressure to provide the quickest, smoothest, most joined-up experience possible. Yes, buying online is on the rise (1 in 41 choosing to more frequently buy clothes online), but surprisingly half of us still prefer to visit the old ‘bricks and mortar’ and shop in store.
So retailers these days have to do their best to cater to each and every shopper. That’s some challenge, so how might you go about doing it?
Most retailers understand that the ‘art’ of shopping is all about customer service – the traditional face-to-face type stuff that they do very well. But they must also understand the ‘science’ of shopping. This is about not just what the customer is buying, but how, why, and when. For example, how often does the customer visit the store or website? How much time do they spend on research? What are they buying? How much do they spend? And, crucially, how do they pay?
The best way to understand all of the above is to adopt an omnichannel strategy.
Omnichannel is about joining all the elements of the customer journey together to provide a uniform experience. When you buy cinema tickets over the phone and your tickets are automatically printed in the foyer, that’s omnichannel. Bought something online and then picked it up in store? Again: omnichannel.
The consequence of channels not joining up is a bad customer experience. If that thing you bought online isn’t available when you show up at the store, you’re not going to use that retailer again.
Today, omnichannel has become a necessity for retailers, big or small. Customer demand for a seamless experience when shopping (and returning) online, in-store or using a mixture of the two needs to be seamless. Retailers need one single inventory online and off. If you’re not delivering to customer expectations, then someone out there is, or will.
And, you guessed it, a single payment solution is essential.
There’s an incredible array of payment options to choose from: online, in-app, cash, card, wearable… the list goes on. This can make it complicated for retailers, especially when they are trying to provide a uniform experience to every customer, through every channel.
Our gateway payment solution, Barclaycard Smartpay, has been designed to help retailers overcome this challenge by bringing every payment method together under one product.
As well as providing a joined-up experience for shoppers, the benefits of an omnichannel payment system extend to the seller too. An omnichannel strategy allows merchants to see the full picture of how customers buy their products across all channels – whether via an app, website, or even conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as hands-free, voice-controlled speakers that can play music, provide information like the weather, control central heating, place online orders, and much more…
My colleague Steve Barry, a Senior E-commerce Development Consultant for Barclaycard, pinpointed a major benefit of Smartpay to the customer.
“By being part of the bigger Barclaycard/Barclays family,” he said, “the retailer also benefits from greater security.”
Because it’s a fully hosted service, with Smartpay there’s far less risk of losing payment data anywhere along the buying journey, which is important for both retailers and customers. Smartpay also lets Barclaycard capture payment information on merchants’ behalf so they don’t have to worry about storing it, or the risk of it being lost. So again, peace of mind.
To be cited as best in class you need a great website, with stores and distribution that are well networked, and where click and collect is super easy. The best omnichannel approach should be supported by excellent customer service (especially in store) and also retain customers with a half decent loyalty scheme, ideally available via a mobile app.
Large retailers may be leading the way in omnichannel, but Smartpay is available to all retailers. Regardless of their size, retailers are finding a single payment solution is key to customer satisfaction and a seamless buying journey. Plus, the added incentive of a service provider that can structure their service to minimise risk is attractive to both merchant and customer.
Looking at my crystal ball, the demand for a seamless experience is only going to grow – particularly as cool technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality are applied to shopping. Alongside these advances, improvements in delivery technology will continue to fuel increases in ecommerce. The era of waiting 28 days for a delivery is long gone; today, this figure can be as low as half a day, or even less.
The best advice I can offer to retailers is to stay as close as possible to the customer journey, understanding customer demands at every stage: not only payment, but loyalty, inventory, technology and experiential, all powered by data insight.
If you’re interested in finding out more, catch my forthcoming blogs about security, customer service and the changing face of shopping. For now, have a look at our omnichannel retailing infographic.