Why People Should Be at the Heart of Your Retail Strategy

Posted by Vanessa Walmsley 12/8/2016

What makes in-store retail stand out in the midst of a digital revolution is people.

The global retail economy is in the midst of a major revolution. The recent PwC Global Total Retail Survey 2016 Report digs into the digital disruption that defined 2015. The diverse findings come down to this: consumers are in control.

As consumers get ever more tech savvy, many practices and expectations are changing. For example, mobile purchasing is firmly on its way to becoming the shopping tool of choice. And social media is now the primary source for sharing and gleaning insights, reviews, and personal recommendations about brands and products.

Yet, other practices and expectations are more evolving than changing. Convenience is important – but price still wins every time. Affordability is a priority to every person in every income bracket in every country across the globe. And even as online and mobile channels strengthen, the in-store customer experience is the most desired because it promises a relational buying experience with a knowledgeable individual. In other words, what makes in-store stand out in the midst of a digital revolution is people.

For those of us whose job it is to help retail companies create the most productive and positive customer journeys, the PwC study is interesting and challenging. Even where data is not entirely surprising, it offers a good reminder about why we should be vigilant in creating ways to maximize retail success.

It all comes down to The People Factor.

As I really considered the findings, something jumped out at me. Everything that PwC highlights comes down to one thing - people.

Think about it. Despite age bracket or where you live in the world, how old you are or if you’re male or female, technology plays a role in your life and it plays a role in how you shop. But we all still seek out face-to-face interactions. We look to subject matter experts for assistance (in our professional and our personal lives). We take delight in thoughtful purchases. Even with all the amazing technologies improving how we perform in our daily lives, we still have a better experience when the people we engage with are informed, passionate about what they do, and committed to helping us.

I’ve pulled out some of the key trends below. Take a look at them – you can see how important The People Factor truly is to the future of the global retail market.

Satisfy Human Desires – If we go back to 2014 to look at consumer trends in China, we get an accurate prediction of what the future of retailing may well look like for the rest of the world. Online shopping in the country increased 60% in 2015 (from 2014), thanks to Alibaba’s 24-hourSingles Day shopping festival. Across the globe, we’re seeing similar special micro-moments creating enormous benefits for retail brands (and national economies). Being able to satisfy your consumer’s desires before they ask for it is a huge step toward retail nirvana. Qmatic innovation labs are using customer journey technologies to create predictability and business intelligence. We believe (and Singles Day confirms) there is a direct correlation between success and how well prepared you are to satisfy each customer’s needs and wants.

Remove Friction – While it varies some based on the retail category, the physical store has traditionally played more of a role in sales conversion than pulling in new foot traffic. With omnichannel taking such an important role in retail, frictionless movement back and forth between online, mobile, and in-store is more important than ever. Consider that in the electronics industry, 29% of shoppers prefer to research in-store and 57% prefer to buy in-store. That brand experience and journey has to be completely smooth and it has to be focused on the needs of that specific customer.

SMEs Matter (A Lot) – Consumers want to talk to people who know stuff! PwC reports that 40% of us rate an in-store experience as great if we have spoken with a staff member with deep product knowledge. This delighted me greatly! I love to speak about great customer experiences and about the fantastic Qmatic solutions that help retailers match great talent with customer demand at exactly the right moment, reducing purchase friction and increasing spend at each transaction.

A Qmatic client recently shared that staff members are able to convert 50% of new customers and generate an average transaction of £1,500, simply by being in a position to have a face-to-face interaction. We need to keep talking to one another – there is real (seven figure) value in it!

Mobile Commerce – Consumers are browsing, researching and even buying via their phones in bigger numbers than ever. For the first time in history, U.S. Black Friday sales surpassed $3 Billion. Mobile accounted for 56% of visits to retail websites and 40% of sales. We’ve seen a similar trend, with more global demand than ever before formobile solutions like appointment booking, the Qmatic serve assist application, customer feedback application, and check-in application.

We are Price Conscious – Cost matters and people use the global reach of the Internet to purchase in another country if they can get a better value (56% of survey respondents said they would look at international retailers for a better price). People perceive a link between price, affordability, and value. Every one of those pieces is important. Value requires a fair price, but it also requires a humane approach.

Community Rules – Consumers want to share experiences, seek advice, and get support from like-minded shoppers – and they have the tools to do so. Social media influences 78% of shoppers – even increasing brand perception among 43% of those people. Retailers absolutely have to manage their social media communities and campaigns. Those that have are seeing huge success, and PwC suggests that will escalate over the next 12 months. Qmatic is part of a global partner community that encompasses 1.2 Billion consumers. We see how using this community to engage and personalize offers can drive in-the-moment benefits, and we expect it to grow.

Innovation is Possible – Retail brands have ample opportunities to build a reputation for innovation. Despite the fact that many consumers see their favorite brands being innovative, very few (17%) classify their own favorite brand as a market leader. Qmatic never stands still and we are excited about the ways we are helping our retail clients to take steps to be innovation leaders by listening to what global shoppers want – and meeting those needs in unique, powerful ways. 

People – one of the many reasons why I love what we do at Qmatic.

People want to engage. When in a store, 38% of consumers keep their phone in their pocket and 27% of them are looking to talk with an employee. We love this at Qmatic. It’s why we work on providing solutions that make face-to-face interactions the most meaningful experience for your customers and staff. Qmatic technologies enable great customer journeys because they work as an extension of your workforce and create processes that allow positive retail interactions to become the norm.

Qmatic can help your customers and staff have more meaningful interactions. Give us an opportunity to show our products in action.

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To read the PwC study or recent Google retail statistics, please visit the following links:
PwC Global Total Retail 2016 
Shoppers Gobble Up In Store Black Friday Deals on Mobile

Vanessa Walmsley

Vanessa Walmsley

Qmatic UK
Managing Director


Vanessa is a likeable, highly motivated and results orientated senior director with a flair for business development and operational performance. With over 15 years’ experience in media, technology and digital out of home sectors, she continuously demonstrates an exceptional ability to develop business strategy and maximize profitability in growth environments and in periods of organizational change.

Vanessa has held business development, commercial operations, managing director and corporate marketing positions across the international digital out of home industry since 2004. She has considerable expertise in international business development, digital media, brand development and corporate communications.