There is little doubt that every retailer needs to be considering some kind of transformation. The UK just suffered its worst year for retail sales by some measures and the industry has been in a state of rapid evolution for years. For retailers, like H&M, with large, physical footprints, leveraging a brick-and-mortar network to better serve customers makes a lot of sense.
Consumers expect to be able to buy and return items on multiple channels. They want to be able to buy what they want when they want to and on the channel they choose. H&M’s large number of stores means its inventory is never far from consumers and that it’s available for rapid delivery or convenient click-and-collect transactions.
Just as important, H&M’s shift means that consumers who buy online and prefer to return items in-store are more likely to have a convenient location to return items.
H&M’s move strikes me as another acknowledgment that we’re in a new era of commerce. Consumers don’t think in terms of in-store shopping and e-commerce. It’s all commerce in their thinking and that’s the way retailers need to be thinking, too.
Signifyd recently commissioned polling company Survata to gauge consumer attitudes in this new era. Among the things that stood out was the value shoppers put on quickly receiving the goods they order online. Nearly 60% of those who had canceled an online order after placing it, did so for reasons that indicated the order was taking too long to arrive.
Among the reasons the group that canceled orders gave were that they found quicker delivery elsewhere, that they decided to go buy the item in a store, that they didn’t receive quick confirmation that the order had been received, that the order was marked ‘pending’ or that they got tired of waiting for the item to arrive.
Of course, with transformation, comes challenges. Progressive retailers that expand channels such as rapid delivery and click-and-collect need to also provide a best-in-class online experience or they’re defeating the purpose.
That means retailers must provide a friction-free buying experience and rapid order fulfillment while also practicing flawless inventory logistics and protecting their business from fraudulent orders and customer abuse. Merchants who are succeeding in the midst of the retail transformation have automated order fulfillment and inventory management. They’ve adopted tools and strategies that can sort legitimate orders from fraudulent ones so as not to slow down deliveries and to ensure that click-and-collect orders are ready for pickup in a tight time window.
We’ve seen that digitally native fashion retailers, such as BooHoo, racing ahead successfully with an aggressive digital strategy. While traditional retailers such as Karen Millen and Jack Wills are struggling to keep up with the pace and have been forced to close multiple stores.
The evidence is clear – those who prioritize the online customer experience are succeeding and will continue to do so, as online sales dominate the UK retail industry growth and customers demand a more seamless shopping journey.