Why seamless retail experiences are key to longevity in the retail sector

It’s hard to escape the fact that the retail industry is undergoing a period of extraordinary change. Every day, media commentary and market analysis points to the sheer scale of transformation retailing is facing.

For some, the outlook for the industry is challenging, particularly in the light of rising costs and store closures. For others, the picture is brighter, with new channels and innovations driving growth and success for those retailers embracing the new opportunities that change brings.

The reality for the retail industry is understandably less clear-cut than this. Arguing that it’s a battle between traditional bricks and mortar stores and online retail giants oversimplifies the situation and consumer shopping habits. Regardless of the debate, as retail continues to be reshaped and re-invented, for today’s retailers one thing is clear: a seamless customer experience across all channels is crucial.

Driven by choice

Digital advances and their influence on the ways people interact with the world is everywhere   apparent for retailers. Whether they are rapidly transforming their business models to adapt to changing consumer behaviours, or working to modernise legacy systems, most retailers understand the impact such rapid advancements in technology are having on the industry and they are taking decisive action.

Indeed, a recent Global Payments Report by Braintree shows that 94% of households in the UK are connected to the internet and reveals a staggering 52% growth in the number of purchases made online between 2013-2017 alone, highlighting the influence of digitisation on consumer behaviour.

Crucially, digital advances have given today’s consumers a sense of autonomy and a plethora of choice when it comes to making purchase decisions. Digitisation has encouraged an “always on” mindset which is transforming every industry and every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

For the retail sector, this means that consumers are firmly in the driving seat when it comes to shopping experiences, dictating the pace and level of change they want to see from brands. Indeed, if we look at the rise and ubiquity of online shopping, it’s clear that buying your next food shop or a new TV, you no longer need to be confined to store opening hours of nine to five.

Empowered consumers are now dictating where and how they make every purchase, whether that’s by the touch of a button from the comfort of one’s own home or with the help of a shop assistant at the local high street – they rightly feel the choice is theirs to make.

Consistency is key

With such choice comes great advantages, such as the ability for retailers to connect with their customers at every point of the retail experience whether it’s through harnessing buyable pins on Pinterest or offer customers a personal shopping experience in store.

Moreover, digital advances mean retailers can also harness and make use of customer data and insights, detecting behaviour patterns, personal preferences and pain points to tackle which, in turn, provide opportunities for growth and scale.

Despite this, the level of choice available to consumers presents new challenges for retailers. For as digital innovation continues to drive more connected, personalised experiences in our personal and professional lives, we are now also looking for the same level of convenience and flexibility in every brand interaction we have.

So, what’s the bottom line? A painful mobile checkout experience, a laborious order form placing too much demand on a small keypad or a clunky credit-card process in store, can seriously affect whether consumers continue to make a purchase or abandon it.

Autonomy of choice means consumers are quick to move on, reluctant to come back and don’t think twice about abandoning a purchase. First impressions count, and this goes for any channel that retailers are interacting with customers on, whether that’s via an AI assistant, direct purchases via social media or at a check out in local shop.

Alleviating these pain points and creating a smooth, quick payment process is a must for retailers. This starts by deploying a payment solution capable of removing common pain points, ensuring a quick and easy retail experience which is as simple as the click of a button.

Removing key sticking points for consumers such as re-entering payment details which they’ve already filled in before is essential. This doesn’t have to be a complex process. A solution to this can be a tool such as using PayPal or Braintree’s Vault, used by companies like Skyscanner, which helps businesses to securely store customer payment details, ensure simple repeat purchases, speed up user experience and ensure customers get what they want, when they want it.

Moreover, a robust payment model also presents the ability to collaborate with new partners and markets to further grow your business. Indeed, by partnering with PayPal, for example, businesses can gain access to one of the most widely adopted digital wallets, with  over 270 million active PayPal customers in over 200 markets around the world, widening their market reach and the customers they’re able to serve.

A sea of change

As retailers continue to navigate through a period of extraordinary change facing their industry, only those agile businesses, ready and willing to build seamless experiences that align with customer expectations, will continue to thrive in 2019 and beyond.

By Colin Moss Davies, EMEA sales director, Braintree

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