Stores advised to deliver consistent online-offline experience

Julien Bourdiniere, Senior Partner of Consumer Goods & Retail at Roland Berger Asia said there are two strategies that retailers should adopt to remain relevant in the field.

With technology reshaping the consumer market, the challenge for physical retail stores is not just about incorporating high-tech innovations but ensuring a seamless blend of the online and offline experience, according to Julien Bourdiniere, Senior Partner of Consumer Goods & Retail at Roland Berger Asia.

In an interview, Bourdiniere gave two major pieces of advice for retailers to remain competitive and relevant in the retail industry, with one making the store experience consistent with online experience.

“Make sure that the store experience is consistent with the rest of the experience, therefore the experiments online,” he said, “Which means that each of the channels have the role to play in the customer experience and retailers, and brands have to understand what are these roles that these channels have to play and create consistency, meaning a seamless customer journey between the experience online and the experience that you can have in store.”

As basic as it may sound, he added that the other one is making the store an easy place to shop.

“I think the basics will remain a very important thing to deliver in return and a very difficult thing to deliver. That means having a very consistent customer circulation, consistent and relevant product offer, category space or location and obviously executing the retail promise very well,” he said.

Bourdiniere cited previous predictions of technological mass rollouts that didn't materialize such as RFID at the item level or smart chairs failing to become popular. Instead, he noted that technologies that offered tangible efficiency impacts like self-checkouts and electronic shelf labels found success.

“The business case of the technologies are very critical. Of course, we're going to see more technologies coming up, even virtual or augmented reality, especially in inspirational stores, like flagship stores of major brands, or luxury or fashion stores, but this will always remain difficult to watch out,” he said.

While Bourdiniere sees potential in augmented and virtual reality, he stressed the need for these technologies to offer a compelling business case for broad adoption. A significant shift, he believes, will emerge from technologies aimed at empowering sales associates. 

“Technologies available on a smartphone or mobile app that would provide information about the product, the customer itself, all the things that would allow the shop associates to continue to interact with their customers online. [...] Creating an e-beauty advisor or an e-fashion advisor, where the sales associate actually becomes key opinion leaders and broadcasts live on live streaming platforms, to their communities,” he explained.

On the matter of data collection and its role in technology-driven strategies, Bourdiniere emphasized that brands which are expert at harvesting consumer data and deriving actionable insights typically possess robust data collection platforms.Given the variances in data compliance laws across countries, Bourdiniere highlighted the importance of technical and legal expertise within companies. 

“So these roles are going to be very critical. In fact, we anticipate that some talent batter is going to happen in this field, because those words are extremely technical and specific, very difficult to maintain and very difficult to develop. And we believe that talent scarcity is going to happen there,” he ended.

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