UK ranks second in readiness to bridge the online/offline retail divide in Europe, Visa Europe reports


Social media and smartphone adoption make the UK market one of the most revolutionary in Europe and the most prepared for tomorrow’s shoppers, according to the new Future of Retail Report from Visa Europe. The research reveals that the UK ranks second in Future of Retail Market Readiness score among 10 of Europe’s biggest retail hot spots, and is ready to welcome the next generation of shopping where online personalisation will merge with the in-store experience.

The Report looks at the key consumer trends that retailers need to be aware of, such as omni-channel shopping, the growing significance of social media in the shopping cycle and the importance of mobile technology. The Report also looks at each market’s demographics and digital saturation through criteria including smartphone and contactless card penetration to determine which countries are in an optimal position to embrace the new shopping experience.

Despite the fact that the UK (45%) ranks behind Poland (70%) and France (53%) in contactless card penetration, three-quarters of Britons have a smartphone and nearly 3 in 5 (59%) are regularly active on social media, making this market ideal for a new, digitally driven shopping experience. This helped push the UK ahead of countries such as France and Germany on the Future of Retail Market Readiness Index.

Commenting on the release of the Report, Kevin Jenkins, managing director UK & Ireland, Visa Europe, said: “Britons’ love of mobile technology and social media, partnered with its embrace of contactless, makes the UK an ideal market for retailers to take advantage of tech innovation to revolutionise the way we shop. Retailers throughout Great Britain have an unparalleled opportunity to satisfy customers who want an engaging, personalised experience when they shop, whether that’s online or in store.”

The Report identifies the major trends shaping the future of retail:

Customers want personalised shopping experiences across all touch points

Whether in a physical store or through digital channels, shopping is no longer simply a utilitarian acquisition of a need or want; customers are looking to be entertained, surprised and delighted by their retail experience.

Increasingly, people are becoming accustomed to algorithms that learn about their preferences and their behaviours to offer online shoppers personalised recommendations. Consumers now want that same customised experience of suggestions and alerts when they shop on the high street.

There is growing demand for social shopping experiences 

At a time when consumers are more socially connected than ever, Visa’s research shows that integration with social media channels is essential for retailers. Today’s shoppers expect social media to be integrated throughout their shopping experience “from play to pay”. The first point of the new shopping experience as entertainment can start with an item pinned on Pinterest, carrying through to looking at a product online, then to consultations with friends or researching reviews, finishing with photos of the newly purchased item shared on Instagram.

One of the most important elements of this finding for retailers to observe is a shift in consumer behaviour from “buy it now” to “hold/consider/consult”, when people pause on their purchase to seek out their friends’ opinions or find the best price.

Mobile technology has the potential to bridge the gap between online and offline retail experiences

Smartphones give today’s shoppers both the ability to stay connected via social media as well as offer the potential to break down the barriers between a personalised digital experience and the high street, which today means that the most loyal customers are still anonymous when they walk through the door. Beacon and Bluetooth technologies have the potential to identify loyal shoppers and send them messages based on previous purchases or items they may currently have in their online checkout basket.

Mobile technology can also improve the payment experience with mobile point of sale devices that enable sales assistants to move away from fixed till points and deeper into the selling space, creating better engagement with their customers. Plus, with mobile payment services, paying by card is faster and more convenient than ever.

“Research Visa conducted earlier this year shows that people are enthusiastic about using their mobile phones when they shop, whether it’s to research the product they are interested in or to pay for an item in app or in store. This is a great time for British retailers of all sizes to embrace a strong mobile strategy for all their customer touch-points,” said Jenkins.