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GLOBAL 2016: Brands challenged to improve online shopping and in-store buying experiences

Help shoppers browse, explore, find surprises and impulse buys

By John Rand
Senior Vice President, Market Insights
Kantar Retail
Most shoppers today are learning to move seamlessly between different media and market spaces, to accomplish the twin but separated goals of shopping and buying. Retailers and brands, however, are still often trapped by habit and process into combining and linking these in ways that are no longer as relevant going forward.

Thus we have the challenge of omni-channel thinking. 

The Internet, in all its forms, whether by computer, tablet, or mobile phone, is becoming an excellent venue for fulfillment – for the act of buying. It knows you, it knows how you pay, what you have bought in the past, and it is close to frictionless. The number one reason for people to use digital sources as a route to purchase is convenience. In most cases, however, the Internet is a terrible place for browsing.

The physical store on the other hand, when it is at its best, is a wonderful place to seek and find new things, to have an experience, to seek help and confirmation from an expert, to taste something, to touch it, to try it on. It is a superior venue for the act of Shopping. In most cases, however, it is a terrible place for buying.
This is the challenge for brands in the future – to improve the shopping online, and the buying in-store, and coordinate both of them as seamlessly as possible.

On reflection, we have always drawn a line between these. There is pre-purchase influence, where marketing and branding tend to focus. And there is the moment of actual sale, where merchandising and presentation, store and execution, take place. To use a paradigm made famous some years ago, these can be seen as separate “moments of truth.”
But they are not separate, not really. They are simply different, both necessary and each complementary to the other. If brands, whether store brands or product brands, expect to thrive in the future and succeed in an omni-channel marketplace, they must learn to do both well in whatever venue the shopper wishes to visit.

Most brands today, particularly FMCG brands, approach retail merchandising and execution, the actual store, as a battle for space and display. The future work for brands is to find ways to move beyond mere placement and improve the store environment to inform, to inspire and entertain, to optimize the experience and engage the shopper more effectively in order to close the sale. In our work at Kantar Retail we have tried to focus attention to improving the traditional store environment for four key shopper actions:
Find: to make it easy to navigate
Inform: to enable product information beyond the minimum package requirements
Compare:  to enable rankings, peer reviews, and other features of a digital shopping trip in the brick and mortar store
Linkage: to overcome the category structures and assist shoppers to link complementary items together
At the same time, the digital experience needs to move beyond item level search and digital shopping. Brands and retailers need to create a total market basket experience, one that allows a shopper to browse, to explore, and to be surprised and encourage the impulse to engage with the brand.
Omni-channel is not a binary choice between store or screen, cart or search engine.  Omni-channel is a challenge to integrate both the buying and the shopping experiences, to the benefit of both.