By: Brad Giles, Vice President of Channel Marketing at Cayan
Look at the headlines these days, and you get a grim picture of the future in retail and restaurants. Whether it’s millennials being blamed for shutting down popular chains, the supposed futility of nearly any company resisting Amazon, the end of brick-and-mortar, or one of the other doom-and-gloom stories that seem to come out daily, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s no hope.
Yet this is hardly the entire story. Retailers and restaurants today have access to unprecedented technology, and those who embrace and leverage this technology stand to grow their customer base and see massive success.
To learn more about the state of these industries, we conducted a recent survey to learn how consumers and businesses feel about these new solutions. We found that consumers are excited about these new solutions and prefer to shop where they’re available—but businesses are not adopting as fast as consumers would like.
The Growth of Technology
Throughout nearly every industry, there’s new and exciting technology that businesses are using to make life easier for customers. There’s countless examples. Stores are using smart mirrors, for instance, to allow customers in dressing rooms to request different sizes, colors and more. Pay at the Table is changing restaurant payments in America after years of use in Europe. Mobile wallets are quickly adding incredible new loyalty and discount capabilities.
It’s not merely that these new technologies are available; it’s that they’re available to restaurants and retailers of all sizes. Technology has become more democratic; tools that were previously available only to the major players of the industry are now available to smaller retailers.
Omnichannel, also referred to as unified commerce, exemplifies this trend. Retailers can now unify their payments, data and customer experience across brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, and off-site sales; they can use mobile solutions to get out from behind the counter and into the aisle, even to remote pop up shops and festivals. Only a few years ago, these sorts of tools were unimaginable for small retailers. But now, technology is more democratic.
We’ve conducted surveys that show, again and again, that consumers not only enjoy these tools, they actively prefer to shop at stores that use them. So why are so many businesses still hesitating to employ them?
What the Data Shows
To find out how customers and merchants feel about omnichannel technology, we conducted a survey. We asked 500 retailers and more than 1,000 consumers for their opinions on 6 different areas of omnichannel payments and solutions.
Answers on the different aspects varied, but there was one clear takeaway: Consumers like these new solutions and prefer shopping at places that employ it—but businesses are not adopting it at the rate that consumers would prefer.
One of the areas in which this was most clearly true was cross-channel shopping. Today’s customers are famous for seeing no distinction between the online and offline worlds, and they want to be able to cross seamlessly between them.
70% of shoppers said that it’s either important or highly important for a retailer to have both in-store and online shopping available. 57% placed the same importance on a “buy online/return in store” option. 39% want to be able to buy a product online and then pick it up in the store.
Not only that, it becomes clear that some demographics have even stronger preferences—women, for instance, placed an even larger premium on both buy online/pick up in store and buy online/return in store.
And it’s clear that these things are more than slight preferences for consumers—they help to dictate where they shop. Nearly 40% of shoppers say they would be much more likely to shop at smaller retailers if they offered these services. These solutions will help improve a business’s bottom line, yet small retailers are often the latest adopters of solutions like these.
Businesses Are Late to the Game
The consumer preferences are clear—as are the opportunities for a business’s revenue. And yet, adoption rates by the retailers and restaurants are still lower than consumers would like.
Once again, consider cross-channel shopping. Only 48% of businesses offer both in-store and online shopping, and only 25% offer in-store returns of online orders. 32% allow their customers to purchase an item online and then return it in the store.
It’s not that these stores are merely missing an opportunity for increased customer satisfaction—they’re also putting revenue at risk. Customers shop more often at these stories, and many surveys in the past have shown that customers who shop across channels are more valuable.
The March of Technology Will Continue
These solutions make it a highly promising moment for retailers and restaurants, especially SMBs. Yet, as Cayan CEO Henry Helgeson notes, many of these stores are opting not to adapt just yet, and they risk being left behind.
“We are seeing an incredible amount of innovation. At one point not long ago, omnichannel seemed like a vague concept. But it’s moved from a working theory to mainstream now that consumers are demanding both convenience and speed when it comes to the shopping experience,” said Cayan CEO Henry Helgeson. “Small and midsized retailers are truly at an inflection point. Our research shows retailers are not on the same page as their customers, and leading into the holidays that’s a serious problem.”