More personalised communication, new online services in addition to products purchased at brick-and-mortar stores, fast-shopping at virtual stores: to keep pace with changes in digital technologies and shoppers’ behaviour, stores are pulling out all the stops.

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The age of the multi-channel shopper

A number of surveys show that digital uses are becoming central to the purchasing experience, but despite the success of pure players such as Amazon, the brick-and-mortar store remains the retail method of choice: a report by the ROPO² Observatory, created by FullSIX Group in France, (ROPO = Research Online, Purchase Offline), revealed that 78% of purchases are made in-store, 10% online and 12% a mixture of both. Digital technology is making both the retailers’ and consumers’ experience more diverse and complex. A study by Marques et Réseaux revealed that 70% of visits to online retailer result in offline purchase and 50% of consumers research online before making an instore purchase. Marketing specialists are carefully studying shopper behaviour in an attempt to establish the profile of the “connected shopper” and their multichannel habits and thus offer them not just products but a faster shopping experience and a more personalised relationship with the brand.

Online services: for a seamless online-offline experience

In an attempt to fuse digital and brick-and-mortar shopping experience, new tools and applications are being developed to give retailers more insights into shoppers’ behaviour and thus address their expectations more effectively. A range of services are being developed to encourage web-to-store shopping: Click & Collect, and on-demand technical support such as Amazon’s Mayday button on the Kindle Fire (average response time of under 10 seconds).

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Fast shopping for mobile customers

Digital shopping allows shoppers to make more informed purchases: they can research products online, compare, ask questions on social networks and read consumer comments and ratings before making a decision. But retailers are also using mobile technologies to encourage impulse buying: Tesco opened a virtual store in the underground in South Korea in 2011, whilst French supermarket chain Carrefour set up temporary digital store screens at Paris’ two main railway stations. More recently, in May and June of this year French clothing brand Comptoir des Cotonniers created quite a buzz on the streets of Paris by opening – overnight – 10,000 virtual stores at bus stops (pictured). Customers could scan products via a QR code, order them in a few clicks and were promised delivery within 48 hours. Moreover, unlike previous similar initiatives, this process did not require shoppers to download the brand’s own app in order to make purchases, but used an existing app used by over 400 retailers all over the world, a development which will ultimately mean m-consumers won’t have to keep downloading a variety of apps onto their mobile device.