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What retailers can learn from Europe’s top performers about transformation

With e-commerce being the fastest growing segment of the retail market in Europe and North America, it would be natural to assume that the online store should be the key focus for retailers. However, in reality, this is not so clear-cut.

Following recent research from Google and e-commerce consultancy Practicology, we have found that many of Europe’s top retailers are focussing more on combining both their digital and physical store offerings in order to stand out and succeed in a competitive market.

The research evaluated the omnichannel customer experiences of 223 retailers across 10 European countries, grouping retailers into four categories by score: Leaders, Followers, Majority, and Latecomers. This allowed us to identify the big differences between retailers in terms of performance, and to spot new best practice approaches that other retailers can learn from.

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We found that only 11% of the retailers in the study are regarded as ‘Leaders’ when it comes to the experiences they offer — with most of these based in the UK, France, and the Netherlands. However, almost 80% of the retailers in the study were revealed to offer experiences that fail to meet the expectations of today’s curious, demanding, and impatient consumers.

 In order to compete with the best, retailers should learn from the example set by category leaders. We found in our study that Europe’s leaders are taking five key approaches to deliver exceptional customer experiences. 

  • In-store tech integrating the online and offline experience.

We found that top – or ‘leader’ – retailers are 3.5 times as likely to provide barcodes, QR codes, NFC (near-field communication), or beacons in-store to allow customers to obtain more product details. They’re also twice as likely to have in-store kiosks or other digital devices that help connect online and offline experiences.

  •  In-store promotion of online proposition and easy to use click and collect 

In Europe, the leading retailers are 90% more likely to clearly sign-post where their click and collect area is located in their stores. They’re also 65% more likely to use their physical stores to clearly promote their online shop. 

  • Online promotion of in-store events 

The top retailers promote special in-store events or offers on their website, while just 11% of non-leading retailers effectively promote in-store events or offers on their website.

  • Remove friction between channels 

Retailers must ensure customers can move seamlessly between channels and devices. Leaders in the field are 80% more likely to offer gift cards that can be bought and redeemed both online and in-store.They’re also 60% as likely to offer wish lists that sync across all devices, based on a customer’s account. 

  • Fast delivery and expectation management 

The best-performing retailers are more likely to offer next day delivery for at least some online orders, and are forthcoming with expected delivery or collection times, by including them on product detail pages. 

  • The long road to transformation

The top performing retailer of those we measured was Decathlon, and it is reaping the rewards of incorporating many of these key five approaches. 

 Its omnichannel customer experience scores of 79% and 74% in Spain and France were achieved through a wide range of tactics, including deploying in-store kiosks so customers can access product information, check availability, and connect the online and offline experience.

 Online services and other propositions are also clearly promoted throughout stores, and the website lets users set personal preferences like their favourite sports or interests. A final, crucial point is that Decathlon’s store locator page is clear and easy to use, with detailed information.

 However, very few retailers were classed as ‘leaders’, reflecting the difficulty of retail transformation. It requires cross-organisational buy-in and a new way of thinking about the customer – taking an omnichannel approach and busting internal silos. It’s clear that transformation is not about a website – it is about the entire approach to omnichannel shopping. 

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