How Retail Credit Plays a Part in the Evolution of Brick & Mortar

“Survival of the fittest” isn’t on the tip of your tongue when describing the retail industry.  But that’s what’s happening right before our eyes: the market is performing natural selection on retailers across the globe.   

Unlike the animal kingdom, retailers have a lot more control over their ability to survive – but that doesn’t make it easy. We’ve all witnessed the slow and painful death of shopping malls across America, and the regular announcements of major retailers closing scores of stores.  

All these events point to one major issue: adapting to change is hard, but it must happen in order to survive.  And there is evidence that retailers that take on the process of adaptation are able to succeed.

Related: What Stores’ Top 100 Retailers are Doing Right

Looking at retail with a new lens is the only way for retailers to succeed in our always-online world.  So how do very traditional processes of retail, like retail credit options, factor into that new lens?  Here are our recommendations for plugging credit financing into a successful retail strategy:

 

Retail credit options must contribute to an optimized customer experience.

The age-old question has always been “how do we sell more stuff?”. But the successful retailer of tomorrow will focus on the 360-degree customer experience.  

Take Warby Parker, for example.  From the customer’s arrival in the store, to the type of employees they hire, to the technology-enhanced purchasing process, Warby Parker places heavy emphasis on the retail customer experience.

Related: The Warby Parker Retail Customer Experience: Five Best Practices Every Retailer Needs To Borrow

So how does retail credit fit into an enriching customer experience?  Credit options must be available, but just having them isn’t enough.  In order for customers to actually use retail credit, they need to be approved.  Wide-ranging consumer credit scores will likely require multiple lenders that can support each segment of customers.

Those multiple credit options are just the starting point though. A truly memorable credit experience optimizes every step of the purchasing process. For example, the application process must be quick and easy and their offer must be easily accessible when it comes time to make a purchase, otherwise customers will bypass it.  On the retailer’s side, the experience has to be integrated with other internal systems, for easy management and insight into customer behavior.

Related: How To Give Your Shoppers More Ways To Buy

So think about this for a minute: what is your customer experience today?  Where do credit financing options fit into the current equation?  And what can you do to make the credit approval process more like your overall customer experience?  All these questions must be answered in order to understand where retail credit fits in the broader picture of your current customer experience.

 

Credit financing must be seamless to the customer: always available everywhere.

This is an especially tough nut to crack for retailers.  Many have struggled to push customers back into stores, instead of embracing the growing trend of online shopping as part of a broader omnichannel strategy.  Even when they do jump on the bandwagon, in-store and online customers are frequently in separate silos.  

But the tide has turned over the years.  According to the 2017 BRP Digital Commerce Survey, over half of participating retailers report that their number 1 priority is a “consistent brand experience across channels.”

Making it a priority is a great first step, but the changes required are substantial. Providing a seamless omnichannel customer experience is a complex undertaking that involves significant investment.

Even if we just look at retail credit, the disconnect can be huge.  Let’s say retailer A offers credit financing both in-store and online, but the two systems used for these are offers that are completely separate and must be used exclusively on the channel from which they were approved for it.     

This isn’t ideal for today’s customer that is more connected than ever and looking for an experience that reflects their omnichannel habits. Retailer’s must look to credit technology to bridge the gap between credit channels and connect all offers into one unified platform.

The omnichannel credit experience extends beyond offering credit to customers wherever they shop. It also includes making retail credit a continuous and accessible experience for customers.

Maybe it’s using location-based marketing to push relevant credit offers during store visits, or allowing customers to start the credit application process on their phone and finish it at the in-store POS.  Whatever the use case, retailers must consider all the applicable touchpoints and decide how to connect with customers at each one.

Related: 3 Ways Location-Based Marketing Is Shaping Retail In 2016

 

Retailers have an opportunity to use credit options to boost the new normal: a seamless, optimized customer experience.

For many retailers, credit financing appears to be an afterthought in the overall sales strategy of their brick and mortar stores.  But with changes sweeping the retail industry, retail credit can be very effective in driving new and repeat sales and increased customer loyalty. The keys for retailers will be to create an interconnected strategy where financing options enhance the overall customer experience.

Want to learn more about changes in retail credit? Check out our recent post on 8 Customer Dynamics Driving Retail Credit Changes.

by Vyze Marketing

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