The number of channels used by shoppers before they purchase continues to increase, making high street shoppers more demanding and better informed than ever before.

As part of a recent study of multichannel shopping behaviours, Pragma conducted a national survey of 2,000 UK consumers to understand their purchasing habits and use of technology. As you can see from this graph, consumers now prefer online channels for all aspects of research on the path to purchase, with 84% preferring to browse products online.

However, channel preferences shift back towards in-store the closer consumers are to making a final decision. This places pressure on retail staff, who are often at a disadvantage in terms of product knowledge and who find themselves frustratingly having to ask visitors for information that has already been expressed during the research phase.

Furthermore, a third of shoppers now use their smartphone to compare products and search for information and prices whilst in-store, making ‘showrooming’ an increasingly prevalent activity.

So how can bricks and mortar retailers deliver a service proposition that is relevant to this modern shopper?

At the heart of omnichannel retail is the ability to give customers what they want at each stage of the journey, to create a seamless shopping experience. In practice this means leveraging customer understanding to deliver relevant information via the most convenient channel.

For example, customers who have booked an appointment with an Apple technician can get messages through the app store on their phone or watch when entering a store, confirming their requests and letting them know when a technician is available to help them. This means customers avoid having to queue up, only to provide information Apple already holds about them.

This trend in the digitisation of the in-store experience will continue as retailers find new and innovative ways to leverage technology in the pursuit of convenience. However, investment in technology should be relative to the level of convenience it provides.

For our disadvantaged store staff, this could be as simple as providing them with tablets to access detailed product information, reviews and customer details, to even the playing field with today’s hyper-informed shopper.

Jacob Gascoine-Becker