Retail’s Multichannel, Multigenerational Future

Retailers are making progress in adapting to digital-era consumer demands at the dawn of a new century. Zebra’s 12th annual Global Shopper Study reveals that overall customer satisfaction has increased. It analyzes data from more than 6,000 customers, associates, and retail executives.

Recognizing the importance of being able move at the speed and pace of technology, retailers are realizing that their future success depends on it. Although many retailers are making progress, there is still much work to be done in order to meet the high expectations of customers from the internet age. Retailers will need to think more like customers.

All Ages Have Unique Expectations

However, for many retailers, the differences between generations can complicate matters. The constant connectivity of the digital economy means that digital natives are able to shop online and in-store with certain expectations. In terms of the shopping experience in stores, millennials can be more demanding than other generations.

Online shoppers are more likely to research what they want online before they visit a store. This highlights the importance of transparency and inventory management for retailers in order to ensure they have stock. 75% of millennials and 53% of Gen Xers said they left a store without buying anything and instead bought online because there were out-of-stocks. Only 26% of baby boomers did this. As Gen Z members reach their peak spending years, the situation will only get more complicated.

The arrow of time is not always straight. There’s a lot of “what’s new is old again” happening in retail, as companies strive to combine physical and online commerce into a seamless, multichannel shopping experience.

Infusing tech with a human touch

Although the headline “Claiming generations” is a great one, it doesn’t tell the whole story about how to transform the retail experience in the future. While digitally-native millennials and Gen Zers love the option to shop online or via mobile, like all generations, they still value physical stores. Perhaps even more than their elder counterparts, 67 percent prefer to shop online with retailers that have brick and mortar locations, while only 55 per cent of Gen X and 40 per cent of baby boomers did the same.

E-commerce lacks some elements, such as personal customer service and hands-on product experience. Physical stores are able to offer these things. The perfect store will combine tech and talent to bring together all the elements that make shopping in-store unique with the convenience of e-commerce. Interactive mirrors allow customers to place orders from their fitting rooms. Augmented reality provides information about products and offers in-store.

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Although shoppers expect some overlap between online and offline shopping, they do not visit stores to interact with screens. The store will need to adopt solutions that improve the customer experience. This includes behind-the scenes technology that enhances operational efficiency.

Customers expect store associates to be as knowledgeable, if not better, than their smartphones. 58% of the surveyed customers reported better customer service when associates used modern technology. Nearly three quarters of all associates agree that mobile technology could make them more helpful to shoppers. Successful rollout of new technologies requires both customer and associate onboarding.

The store design and staff must be flexible enough to accommodate the changing needs of multiple generations. They also need to provide personalized service to each customer. This personalized experience can be delivered by retailers using technology, and associates can offer the best customer service.

Click to learn more about the retail technology solutions that enable sales associates to deliver faster, better service to customers.


Victoria’s Secret Offers Sycamore Partners a Deal

CNN reported that L Brands, Victoria’s Secret’s parent, has canceled its deal with Sycamore Partners. L Brands had a deal with Sycamore Partners for $525 million to take the lingerie retailer private. This deal would have divided control of Victoria’s Secret with Sycamore Partners purchasing a 55 percent stake, and L Brands maintaining control at 45 percent.

L Brands temporarily shut down its retail stores in mid-march to prevent the spread coronavirus. CNN reported that Sycamore Partners claimed these changes were against its agreement.

L Brands announced in February that Leslie Wexner, the company’s chief executive, would be retiring but that he would still serve as chairman emeritus on the board. Wexner will still be stepping down, as was previously planned.

Total Retail’s Turn: It is difficult for retailers to navigate in a difficult economic environment and where customers are reluctant to shop in physical stores. This is only adding to the difficulties facing Victoria’s Secret and its parent company L Brands. Victoria’s Secret and other retailers had to close their brick-and mortar stores within days. Furloughed employees were also forced to be laid off. Sycamore Partners decided to reevaluate its deal, since it was not eager to take over the retailer in this current environment. Victoria’s Secret’s future without a buyer is uncertain. It will be interesting for us to see if there are any other potential buyers at this point. This is something one should be suspicious of.

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