Personalized retail: offering customers a hybrid experience. 

Hybrid retail has substantially increased in popularity in recent years, with many traditional brick and mortar stores introducing new e-commerce practices. The shift to hybrid retail was a direct result of the pandemic – consumers began demand more digital retail experiences, so businesses began to adopt omnichannel services.

Shopping via social media channels has remained the preferred destination, despite lockdowns easing and businesses reopening, and is expected to stay the preferred route too. However, customers are still wanting to explore hybrid retail options when shopping. From collect and pickup point delivery to Buying Online Picking Up In store (BOPIS), providing multiple return points in both online and physical spaces for consumers is now essential. 

The growth of hybrid retail has highlighted the in-store experiences are still in demand when buying products and so the experience of returning and collecting goods must be a seamless and positive experience too. According to SOTI research, 52% say of consumers globally are more likely to shop with a retailer that offered multiple return points. Retailers will need to give consumers options like printing return labels at home to drop off at a delivery company, or simply taking their e-receipt to the counter at the brick-and-mortar store to return in-person. 

Even Primark, which historically steered away from entering the e-commerce world, has now started its journey into the online world, launching a trial of a click and collect system in 25 stores. This reiterates that many popular retailers have succumbed to customer expectations and adopted e-commerce strategies. 

Enhancing the relationship between retailers and customers

Hybrid business models have become commonplace internationally, primarily because of the pandemic drastically changed the way in which industries operate. As our jobs go hybrid, consumers are expecting adjustments in other areas of their lives as well. 

What do customers seek for from retailers when shopping via online? 

· A personalized experience: To achieve this a one size fits all approach must be avoided at all costs. The demand from customers to have information about their purchases at their fingertips is common. For retailers, this involves providing confirmation of purchase, checks along the way – from packaging to getting onto the truck and delivered to their house, providing information on which delivery company has their package and details on delays. 

It is crucial to keep the customer in the loop at all stages of the delivery experience. 

· To connect in a variety of ways: In-person, online or with a partnered company – ensure options are present and easily accessible – meet customers where they are. 

· Create the ideal omnichannel experience: Customers want retailers to provide convenience and options, like in-person and online shopping. For example, when SOTI asked if consumers would consider using any alternative delivery options in 2022, 63% of surveyed consumers said they would consider in-store delivery and half said they would consider delivery to a designated drop-off point. 

Although customers are aware of the supply chain crisis and have experienced the ramifications, they simply do not care about the ins and the outs. They want their goods not only quickly, but they also want to be able to shop in the way that suits them best. 

Enabling Mobile Accessibility to Streamline Customer Experiences 

When a business fails to optimize its website for mobile, tablet and desktop devices, customers become frustrated and they will make their feelings heard by taking their money and loyalty elsewhere. In fact, 48% of customers say that when companies don’t make their websites responsive on mobile phones, it makes them feel like the companies will care less about their business. 

Not only do businesses risk losing shoppers if sites are not optimized for mobile use, but Google rewards companies who make their websites mobile friendly. This is highly beneficial reputationally and improves customer satisfaction. With 83% of people doing their online shopping through mobile devices, and half of all Internet shopping traffic is done on a mobile device, retailers could be missing out on a large proportion of sales if they are not offering hybrid solutions 

For in-store shopping experiences such as click and collect, retailers must fully utilize mobile technology with RFID, kiosks, scanners and tablets, so that customers can approach a store and easily receive their orders. It is key for customers to feel as their wants and needs are acknowledged by retailers and that the method they receive their orders is on par with one another, both in-store and at home. 

The future of hybrid retail

As supply chain issues wear off, retailers will no longer be able to blame the crisis for delays in deliveries and lack of stock. They will instead have to face the fact that they do not have sufficient technology, processes and systems in place to offer a robust hybrid retail model. 

The hybrid retail approach allows businesses to build long-term, loyal customers from the very start of their journey with a brand. To achieve this, retailers need an Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solution in place to ensure devices are secure, connected and managed effectively to accommodate the ever-changing customer demands and ensure the technology sufficiently meets such expectations. 

With hybrid retail becoming increasingly popular with consumers, the time to act is now. Businesses that don’t risk alienating customers who now have far less patience for inflexible delivery options. So those who do not meet new consumer demands are in danger of falling behind their competitors who give their customers what they want, when they want it. 

Stefan Spendrup

Stefan Spendrup is Vice President of Sales, Northern and Western Europe at SOTI.

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