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The omnichannel gap that could swallow the high street whole

The retail sector is buzzing with discussion regarding the constant challenge of meeting growing consumer expectations and the weight that businesses should give to each of these expectations.
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The realities of losing business through failure to adapt are sinking in – as we’ve seen on the high street. Indeed, 72 per cent of businesses cite improving the customer experience as their top priority, according to research by Forrester.

For retailers, adapting means, on occasion, finding solutions to problems which they were previously unaware of because the level of consumer expectation is changing so drastically.

If we’re to go by trends we see amongst the biggest players, convenience seems to be the main driver behind change in the retail sector.

Not many people would have anticipated Amazon’s push into the high street with its acquisition of Whole Foods, yet the online giant recognised an opportunity to revolutionise grocery shopping – it remains to be seen whether the “checkout-free” store concept is rolled out across the Whole Foods of the world.

This was a bold move by Amazon as many would’ve thought its push into groceries would remain online, challenging the supermarket chains already delivering consumables to the nation’s doorsteps.

Yet, despite the convenience of online shopping, Amazon understands the power of getting consumers to their local bricks and mortar stores (bigger basket sizes due to being able to see and touch items etc).

The delivery disconnect

So, the high street (and physical retail in general) is still very much alive, and the online giants are acting on it. Yet there still seems to be a disconnect when it comes to fully meeting changing consumer expectations. 

Across the retail landscape, from fashion to furniture, homeware and beyond, consumers continue to show an appetite for “showrooming” products; inspecting items in-store before they make a purchase. 

This may well increase footfall, but it won’t necessarily drive revenues if consumers look online for a better price when it comes to purchasing a product they’ve seen in store on the high street (which in some cases they can arrange to have it delivered at a specific time, date and place that suits them).

This is where retailers can truly tap into the higher levels of consumer expectations – by presenting customers with the option to have the product delivered at a precise time, date and place, and this can all be arranged while the customer is in-store (or in the case of an order being placed online which is ‘serviceable’ from a physical bricks-and-mortar store). 

While this has not been an option retailers have given much focus to in the past – if someone was shopping in the store, they carried their own purchases or if the items are very large, waited for their delivery. It is achievable through a new tech-enabled approach, designed specifically with the needs of these more demanding, urban consumers, front and centre of mind.

Traditionally, retailers have tended to dispatch customer orders (mostly those orders placed on their website) via nationwide courier services. There has never been a clear go-to which enabled retailers to provide their customers precision and transparency when it came to delivery straight from their bricks-and-mortar stores, allowing the retailer, for example, to offer a hands-free shopping service.

A fresh approach – Precision delivery  

An alternative approach makes it entirely possible for retailers to address these changing consumer requirements with a range of precise delivery possibilities. This can be achieved through technology which connects retailers (with urban bricks-and-mortar presences) with a pool of always-available crowdsourced couriers.

For this to be most effective, it must be made quick and easy for store staff to schedule each delivery without distracting them from their core in-store functions.

This can be made possible via a clear and intuitive cloud dashboard that enables each new delivery to be swiftly arranged whilst enabling transparency and clarity when it comes to “in-progress” deliveries.

Using an intelligent algorithm that sources the most suitable courier, available from a freelance resource pool, based on a series of factors including their rating, vehicle type, location etc.

Not only can this save retailers money by reducing fulfilment costs and increasing efficiency in the returns process, it also acts as a sales conversion tool, encouraging customers to make quicker purchasing decisions as a result of being able to receive their purchases at a time convenient to them. 

With a myriad of impressive new in-store technologies available, retailers must be savvy when it comes to deciding which technologies will deliver most value to the consumer.

There is a clear requirement for a solution that provides consumers with the option of precise, controllable delivery. While online retailers offer more flexibility in product delivery, both the high street and online sellers simply cannot provide delivery options that are precise enough to satisfy the growing expectations of the consumer.

Despite efforts to become more multi-channel, without addressing the delivery disconnect with a dedicated solution that can be implemented quickly and easily, retailers will continue to fail when it comes to truly meeting the expectations of the more demanding, modern consumer.

Andrew Mukerjee is CEO of Brisqq

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