It is not really a question of online vs. in-store anymore. It ’s about consumers being able to shop everywhere, anytime, any way they choose – in-store, and online, using a phone or a tablet, and even on social media, welcome f commerce!
Over the last few years we have witnessed the huge impact that advances in technology have had on retail. We have gone from Mono Channel – Bricks and Mortar or online, to Cross-channel or Multi Channel – Bricks and Clicks and social and mobile, and now movement by retailers toward Omni Channel – All channels , all at once – Point of sale to Points of sale.
The measurable nature inherent in most new technologies, make them extremely attractive to any industry that is fixated on numbers, and ours is no exception. The paradox is the sheer volume of new technologies and the dizzying rate at which even more are coming online. Which is just the next “bright shiny object”? What new technologies are most relevant to our industry? Which ones are most engaging to our customers, most valued by retailers, and have the greatest potential to increase revenue? like others in our industry we have been researching, evaluating and trialing social media, website analytics, mobile commerce, location based services, digital signage and all of the other new technologies trying to answer that question.
In late 2010, together with Alexander Babbage, Forest City conducted our first ever, exclusively, online survey. All of the 56 hundred plus responses came from our center's online channels. In case you think the sample size seems small consider that national surveys measuring public opinion are much smaller. We wanted to know if the energy and resources we were using for social media was beneficial to our centers or as we feared, just entertainment for the digitally savvy consumer who did most of their shopping online?
Despite our early hypothesis that these online enthusiast were not productive in-mall shoppers it turned out nothing could have been further from the truth. Though the respondents were perfectly comfortable with online shopping, they were more productive in-mall shoppers than they were online by every measurement; number of monthly visits, length of visit, conversion rate, and total monthly expenditure. We also learned that though our shoppers were definitely shopping online it wasn ’t quite the Armageddon for bricks and mortar that many of the headlines were foretelling. But that was still only half of the puzzle, we needed to know what retailers were thinking…
In July of last year we took the logical next step and formed the first ever joint research partnership that Chain Store Age Magazine had ever done. We all wanted to know what digital technologies were most important to retailers and what they were doing with them now, and which ones would grow in importance in the future? We also wanted to know how big a piece of their business online sale were currently and what their projected growth of online sales were. How were online purchases, made in store , reported? What landlord provided amenities or programs were most important to them? And who served as their brand ambassador on social media?
The partnership with Chain Store Age Magazine gave us unprecedented access to top retailers. The survey was available from a link on the Chain Store Age Magazine website as well as in an email that went to the magazines proprietary database of over 30,000 international retail professionals. The greatest number of responses came from specialty retailers and when added together with the responses from other traditional shopping center retailers including traditional department stores, and both quick serve and sit-down restaurants the respondents accounted for 69% of the total .
Of all media ranked as “very important” by retailers in the survey, Twitter and Mobile Advertising were the two medias retailers anticipated would grow the most in importance in 12 months followed a distant second by Facebook and Paid online search.
The information on this graph and the findings from the two research studies we conducted gave us a pretty clear indication as to where the potential growth in retail was coming from. The blue portion at the bottom of the bars show Bricks and mortar retail sales as a percentage of total retail sales, the light blue at the very top of the bars indicates pure or direct online sales. It is the teal green portion in the middle defined as “Web-Influenced Retail Sales” that most dramatically illustrates where future retail opportunity lies. This segment is showing more consistent and robust growth than either single channel. Online sales and other technologies are undoubtedly a factor in future in-store sales but it is no longer a question of one channel vs another. Consumers have a more holistic attitude toward retail and the channels they use to shop and so must we.
These multichannel shoppers want what they want, when, where, and how they want it. Period. They may buy online from their mobile and Pick-up at the store, or, research their purchase online and buy in-store but from an online kiosk. They are very productive shoppers… According to a report from Goldman Sachs a multichannel shopper spends twice as much as a single channel shopper and Jamie Nordstrom, of Nordstrom Department Stores has said this group is four times as productive as any single channel group. So how do we attract and retain more of this highly productive shopper group? At Forest City we got busy!
We mobile optimized our website, now almost half of all web traffic to our sites comes from a mobile devise. We made providing a comprehensive free wifi network as an amenity to our customers a priority. As part of the debut of the Shoptopia Network we designed and launched new socially enhanced websites. Instead of being just a place for a first-time shopping center visitor to find out mall hours we re-designed our sites with our best customers in mind and included “Fresh Daily” original content dynamically published to our home pages. Our new web sites are the one stop source for all things fashion, food, family, and fun and include trend information , helpful how to articles on decorating and gadgets to packing a healthy lunch, deals, event information and so much more.
The sites also integrate our retailers national facebook and twitter feeds and allows retailers to claim their store and communicate directly with customers on a local level who follow their brand.
A personal profile replaced numerous sign ups for mobile, birthday , and email. Customers fill out the basics, select the devise they want to receive information on as well as the type and frequency of communication. They can even choose to follow their favorite stores. The results have been great. Traffic to our websites is up 46%, monthly repeat traffic is up 20%, site analytics across the board are also significantly improved as is our websites SEO performance.
Another experiment in enhancing bricks and mortar shopping using technology was our 3D virtual dressing room tour. Swivel, the worlds first 3D virtual dressing room developed by Facecake made three stops to our centers in California. Our customers provided real-time feedback to help the developers improve their product and in exchange our customers had a chance to try technology that most have only seen in the movies.
Swivel uses a hand gesture interface that allows customers to select items from a menu on the screen by moving their hand. Once an item is selected the customer can “try it on” virtually with out removing their clothes.
Once they have the perfect look they can select a virtual background, like a ski slope or the red carpet. Scan a Microsoft Tag for store and pricing information.
And. finally snap a picture on Swivel……….
and send it to their friends on Facebook, Twitter or email to see what they think
If experience is the most important asset of bricks and mortar shopping, then having indisputable, quantifiable, real-time information on which to base decisions like online retailers might be one of the single most important enhancements technology can bring to bricks and mortar shopping. Where do shoppers go after the Thursday night concert to the restaurants? Or the parking lot? Is kiosk location A twice as valuable as location B or three times more valuable? Should we close on Monday and stay open later on Sunday? There are several promising technologies available now and being developed that could provide our industry this kind of information.
Around Thanksgiving of last year Forest City became the first US developer to trial a technology called Foot Path. What you are seeing are bits and pieces of the types of information and reports Foot Path can provide. The technology was developed by Path Intelligence in the UK. Foot Path uses small antennas to pick up anonymous cell phone pings that are then aggregated together to provide insights into the collective movements of shoppers, very similar to the way that real time traffic information is generated. The trial was temporarily suspended, however it is likely that this type of data will be available and common place in the future.
This is something that I stole from the Cisco Internet Business Group and I am not able to tell you who wrote it but I think it sums up in a very succinct way the idea of online AND In-Store instead of Online VS Instore. Multichannel goes both ways, or should that be all ways? At any rate I think we will see more of the online elite join Zappos, Etsy, and Living Social to test the water of bricks and mortar retail. So I suggest we not think of the changes that technology brings to retail as an Armageddon, or even a revolution, but as a Renaissance fueling a renewal of energy and creativity and expanding the definition and possibilities of retail. Thank you so much for your time. I would like to leave you with a very short 2 minute video on Omnichannel retail produced by Cegid a retail software solutions company.
1. Online vs In-Store:Creating a Win-Win ThroughDigital Technology
2. Online vs In-Store:Online & In-Store:
3. Mono to OmniMonochannel – One or another, Bricks or ClicksMultichannel – Bricks and clicks and social and ...Omnichannel – All channels, all at once, point of sale to points of sale
4. Not everything that counts can becounted, and not everything that canbe counted counts. - Albert Einstein -
5. Retail Portfolio Online Research Study• Conducted - July 6 – Aug 15, 2010• Total Respondents - 5,600+• Channels Websites, eblasts, Facebook, Twitter, Shoptopia
6. Findings• Average number of in-mall visits was greater than the average monthly online shopping visits.• Length of in-mall visit was twice as long as long as online.• Buyer conversion was 30% higher in-mall than online.• Average total monthly in-mall expenditure was higher than online among all groups.
7. Joint Research Study: July 2011 “How Retailers are Embracing Digital Technologies: Which Ones & How Fast”
8. Findings• 62% said their brand ambassador for stores on social media at the local level is a corporate marketing representative• 83% of respondents do at least a portion of their sales online
9. Findings• Just 21% said that online purchases could currently be made in-store. Interestingly, a significant portion of these sales are reported separately – not to the store in which the sale was made• The most highly-valued programs landlords provide are Customer Affinity programs, web advertising, and free in-center Wi-Fi network.
10. Multi-channel sales are forecasted to continue to drive significant value, with online and web- influenced sales growing to more than 53% of total retail sales by 2014Online Sales(Direct)Web-InfluencedRetail SalesRetail sales 1. Source: Deloitte Research, Forrester Research, US Online Retail Forecast, 2009 To 2014, Online Retail Hangs Tough For 11% Growth In A Challenging Economy, March 2010, Internet Retail Offline Influence Model
11. “I expect the internet experience in the store and the store experience on the internet” - New Multichannel Consumer
12. 3D Virtual Dressing Room Tour
13. How much better could we be at delivering the experience our customers want if we had measurements, in addition to sales, from which to gain insight?
14. “Store-based retailers should, therefore, consider the physical environment a competitive asset- aplatform to empower consumers. By optimizing the in-store experience, store-based retailers can offersomething that pure online retailers can’t – the best of both physical and virtual worlds.” Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, My Shopping, My Way, 2011
15. Omnichannel Retail By Cegidhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5W9mh6G-as