Man and woman in front of a laptop holding a credit card and making an online purchase

The hybrid retail experience is here to stay

By Laura Stone, Industry Director Retail, Ricoh USA, Inc.

Summary

Hybrid retail shopping experiences put control into consumers' hands.

Read time: 4 minutes

While the pandemic expedited a massive shift in consumer shopping behavior, it increased the speed of a trend already underway — the hybrid retail shopping experience.

For decades, brands and retailers controlled the consumer shopping experience by targeting consumers with specific messages through specific channels. Now, the consumer dictates every element of this experience. They decide how, when, and where to purchase products and services. Sometimes it’s in a store, sometimes online, and sometimes bought online and picked up in a store, also known as BOPIS.

Great consumer experiences start with information

Regardless of the channel a specific consumer selects, retailers must provide a consistent, relevant, and timely product experience across them all. Adding to the complexity, most retailers have established proprietary connections for brands to share product information to their specific e-commerce sites and in-store experiences.

Those fortunate enough to have an e-commerce presence before 2020 had a temporary advantage. And those with the most intimate knowledge of their digital information, including product information, inventory and consumer preferences have always been the best prepared to deliver on consumer expectations for immediacy, personalization, and omnichannel shopping experiences.

That said, information is only as good as your ability to extract, connect and use it for strategic advantage. The growing number of proprietary silos storing product content has created interoperability challenges that result in brands losing sales. For many consumers, convenience and a seamless experience take priority.

According to a recent report from Salisfy, 46% of shoppers in the U.S. will not buy a product — either online or in a store — if they don’t find the detailed information they’re looking for online. In this harsh reality for brands and retailers, alternative options for shoppers are always a click away.

The other reality for retailers is that consumer shopping behaviors have fundamentally changed. According to a Ricoh survey of retailers, 88% plan to keep the digital shopping enhancements they implemented mid-pandemic.

Information is only as good as your ability to extract, connect and use it for strategic advantage. The growing number of proprietary silos storing product content has created interoperability challenges that result in brands losing sales.

How the hybrid retail shopping experience works

We see this hybrid retail consumer shopping experience coming to life in a variety of settings. According to a survey from IBM in partnership with the National Retail Federation, hybrid shopping is on the rise, particularly in the home goods category, with 40% of respondents saying hybrid is their choice for home purchases, followed by 25% for apparel and 20% for groceries.

For grocers, a hybrid retail approach can have multiple benefits, a huge one being flexibility and meeting each customer’s evolving needs. While some customers couldn’t wait to get back in-store, many still appreciate and plan to use buy online pick-up in-store (BOPIS), curbside, or delivery options purely for convenience.

Retailers also realize a hybrid retail approach can fulfill both customer needs. For example, before heading to the grocery store, a shopper can place an online order for items they don’t need to personally select, for example, their “center aisle goods” (paper towels, canned goods, and cereal). When they arrive at the store, they select their produce, meats, and other specialty goods and, upon departure, pull up to the back of the store for their core goods to be loaded into their car.

Now, grocery stores are providing an ideal hybrid retail experience that saves consumers time while still allowing them to enjoy the benefits of in-store shopping.

Hybrid retail beyond grocery shopping

The hybrid approach can also be invaluable in other retail segments. Picture this. You have an event coming up this weekend and need a new outfit. With limited time to shop, you place an online order and hope it all fits like a glove.

A hybrid retail approach allows you to browse your favorite local clothing store’s inventory, pre-select the outfits you’d like to try on, and schedule a fitting room for the next day that will come with your pre-selected outfits ready to try on.

Retailers who can offer this level of service while also learning more about their customers to offer genuinely curated experiences will achieve ultimate customer loyalty.

Make it seamless

The best brand experiences must look effortless to the customer. However, for the retailer, it’s far from an effortless process and one that requires a significant amount of strategy and planning.

Retailers must have the right systems in place to allow employees to serve customers better, which includes having:

  • Correct product information

  • Accurate and quick access to current inventory

  • The ability to easily see if another store has an out-of-stock item

  • The ability to make intelligent and personalized customer recommendations

At Ricoh, we empower customer-focused retailers to create more meaningful human experiences. We do this by using information to discover what convenience means to your customers and how you can deliver amazing experiences for shoppers.
Learn more about how Ricoh can help enhance your retail customer experience.

Laura Stone, Industry Director Retail

Laura has been at Ricoh since 2019, bringing 20-plus years of experience working across retail store and supply chain logistics. She is passionate about positively impacting the customer and employee experience leveraging technology and SaaS solutions to solve challenges while removing friction across the shopping journey.

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