Stores will continue to be the hub for retailer engagement with connected customers despite the rise of online and mobile commerce across Europe, according to a new survey of European retail managers commissioned by retail solutions provider, Fujitsu.
The Fujitsu Pan-European Retail Survey 2013 explores the future of the store in a multi-channel environment, including store challenges such as driving sales and managing people, the importance of a unified view of customers across all channels, plus technology innovations to deliver multi-channel solutions that deliver valued customer experiences at a competitive investment level.
Among the findings, two-thirds of retail managers who took part in the study believe the importance of stores has increased significantly within Europe (65%); and this is particularly the case in countries such as Italy (74%) and France (68%) where high-street culture is as strong as ever. While overall, online shopping is considered the most attractive distribution model from the perspective of retail customers today (72%), there are wide national differences that demonstrate ‘bricks’ have not been entirely replaced by ‘clicks.’ German retailers currently find online shopping most attractive to their customers (81%), while in Italy in particular ‘hypermarket and supermarket’ models remain the most attractive (78%), closely followed by ‘city-center urban shopping’ (71%), and in the UK there is a greater balance across all models.
So despite the ongoing rise of e-tailers, the Fujitsu study finds most traditional retailers are convinced that brick and mortar stores have a place in the future of retail, although there are widely varying views on what the store of the future will look like. Stores are likely to remain the place where retailers can realize the ‘physical’ brand experience for the shopper in a way that complements and is consistent with the ‘online’ and ‘mobile’ brand experience. The store is still the fundamental shopping channel for retailers and their customers across Europe; however its role and operating model are changing rapidly to meet the needs of the multi-channel shopper. Service is becoming a key value-add for the store – including online/in-store hybrid services such as click and collect. Overall, 86% of respondents defined the most important role of stores as a place for service – this was particularly true in France where the figure jumps to 94%.
However, national differences see UK retailers considering a store’s role as a shopping point as being most important (91%), while for the Italians exposure to the brand is key (88%), and Germans have a more balanced view of the range of roles a store plays. These results demonstrate the importance that in-store experience plays in product discovery and sales associate interaction – of the overall service experience – while providing retailers with the opportunity to provide a differentiating ‘wrapper’ around their offerings to convert customers to buy, rather than losing out to constantly competing on price alone. However, when it comes to rating the importance of distribution models for the future of their business, on a scale of attractiveness from one to 10, online shopping still leads overall, landing nearly eight out of 10.
Richard Clarke, vice president, global retail at Fujitsu, said: “It is clear the store remains the shopping ‘hub’ for the majority of consumers across Europe, but the store operating model is changing rapidly to meet the needs of the multi-channel shopper. Service – in terms of both experience via sales-associate interaction and process efficiency via models like Click ‘n’ Collect – is becoming the competitive value add for the store. Fujitsu helps retailers to achieve this goal by simplifying their technology deployment and radically increasing agility and customer intimacy.”