The whole debate around Apple Pay, and the reticence of many retailers to initially adopt the technology, points to a clear conflict between the traditional function of the retailer with their firm belief they know their customer, and the use of technology derived from the online world that truly knows about the customer. The key difference being that one is a traditional view of experience based on the tangible world of people in stores and the other is an analytical world based on data from analysing online sessions. There is a misconceived school of thought that proclaims the online and offline worlds shouldn’t be confused, or even intertwined. But they have to be. Knowing your customer now means understanding them in order to serve them better. The customers’ expectations have risen as a result of their online experiences.
If you consider the millennial customers, who have grown up in the dotcom age, with a smartphone in their hand and social media at their fingertips, traditional retailers clearly need to adapt and adopt rapidly developing technology in order for them to communicate with these customers in the right way. It is time to start opening conversations instead of simply pushing messaging at potential consumers and hoping you understood their needs.
While some retailers may perhaps fear Apple’s power, consumers love the brand so now is the time to embrace an association with Apple Pay. To share the rewards they need to ensure they work with Apple to leverage the process to create new customer relationships and be perceived as doing more for the customer. Apple, and Google for that matter, is able to build strong customer relationships through payment solutions, the corresponding data collection and the services they can then build based on this new knowledge. This is what bricks-and-mortar retailers need to tap into.
‘The death of the High-Street’
To move forward, retailers should be looking to combine their online customer and payment data with the design of their stores, and bridge the experience-gap for the consumer, so that moving between the online and physical shopping process is almost all but seamless.
The ‘death of the high street’ has been well-documented and reported on in recent times with the blame falling on technology or, more specifically, online retail sites. However, it is technology that will ultimately save the high street. Yes, ‘the death of the high street’ is possibly over exaggerated but there is definitely a major concern about falling footfall for traditional bricks and mortar retail outlets. The retailers that do embrace emerging tech, such as Apple Pay, will find they’re able to win back the armchair shoppers and draw more consumers to their physical stores, with better designed stores, in-store product placement and promotions tailored to a far clearer view of what their customers want and how they are prepared to buy it.
Omnipresence, or ominchannel, is becoming the Holy Grail for retailers in an era when consumers have more choice about how they shop than ever before. Consumers are programmed to find the best deals and the best prices for items they’re buying, and they always have been. In the not so distant past, consumers would collect (physical) tokens or coupons to then reap the latest offers from retailers. Now, with e-commerce firmly positioned as the frontrunner when it comes to the retail industry, consumers are relying on online vouchers and coupons; finely balanced with price comparison sites to really harvest the best possible deal on a product. But they do not just buy on price and discount; they want great information about products, reviews, and comparisons with a clear explanation of product benefits. The web helped create these for online stores, but what really happened was that huge amounts of data about what customers looked for and wanted allowed the online stores to gravitate to these advanced solutions. Bricks-and-mortar retail must now follow.
Retailers need to bring the notion of a designed experience back to the store. Mr Selfridge did this more than 100 years ago when he created the eponymous Oxford St store, and he was a visionary, not resting on previous notions of selling. It is technology, such as Apple Pay, that could turn the tide for retailers but they need to see the need to adapt to customer’s new expectations. This probably is the biggest obstacle to mass adoption.