The Polish e-commerce market has been growing at double-digit pace for years and the number of online shoppers is growing steadily. Some of Poland’s top retailers, who have thus far not been able to reap the benefits of the digital channel, are quickly making up for lost time. Fashion retailer LPP and footwear firm CCC have been seeing 100 percent or more growth in their online sales this year. But becoming an omnichannel business is more than just opening an online store
by Beata Socha
The number of internet users who shop online has increased to 54 percent, compared to 50 percent in 2016, according to the “E-commerce in Poland 2017” report prepared by Gemius in cooperation with the Chamber of Electronic Commerce (IGE). The biggest incentive for online shopping is the 24-hour availability, according to 82 percent of respondents, while 44 percent see it as comfortable and uncomplicated (41 percent). While last year, 43 percent of respondents considered online shopping as risky, this figure dropped to 38 percent this year.
“The number of online buyers is increasing, as is the value of the whole market, and not only in Poland but also in other countries in our region. The Polish e-commerce market is valued at PLN 36-40 billion and it will increase further,” said Marek Molicki from Gemius.
Online shoppers are also becoming well-versed in the online product offering, and their awareness of e-commerce websites is very high – only 17 percent of respondents were unable to list any online stores. The most popular products bought online are: clothing, accessories, books, records and films. As much as 70 percent of the respondents have purchased these products online.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
The need to combine online and offline sales has been clear to many retailers for years. “Omnichannel retail is not a new trend, but it took some time before retailers and shopping centers really started to embrace it and implement it as a model,” said Piotr Kreft, Omnichannel Program Leader at The Heart, a Warsaw-based center bringing together tech start-ups and large corporations.
In fact, some of Poland’s top WSE-listed chains, like clothing giant LPP and footwear retailer CCC have only recently started investing in their online channel. Between January and August of this year, CCC recorded PLN 348 million in online sales, marking a whopping 125.6 percent increase year-on-year. The company is seeing impressive growth in both regular stores and in its digital sales channel, with an overall 35.6 percent increase for the first eight months of the year (and PLN 2.451 billion in sales revenue). Granted, online sales are still a small portion of the company’s business (some 14 percent), but the share of e-commerce in its strategy is clearly growing. Clothing retailer LPP has even more catching up to do, as its online sales constitute a little more than 4 percent (PLN 186 million out of a total of PLN 4.28 billion in the January-August period), but its online sales growth is equally impressive at 111 percent y/y for the first eight months of 2017.
“Many sellers realized that without mobile shops they have no future on the market. Just like offering fast delivery and a customer-friendly return policy is also becoming the norm,” said Molicki.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
But omnichannel retail is much more than just combining online sales with offline services and support. “It’s not only vast in its scope, but also extensive in terms of the uses and tools that are becoming available. Let’s not forget omnichannel is not only about typical retail: everything involving a customer can and should be omnichannel,” Kreft said.
To bring this vast range within manageable margins, The Heart divided its Omnichannel program into three categories which they consider as the most significant technology drivers in omnichannel ecosystems right now: Customer Intelligence, Future Point of Sale and Marketing & Sales Automation.
Customer Intelligence, which means learning all you can about your client, is essential to target your marketing activities well. There are many examples that show how much more accurate a data-based approach is than relying on intuition alone. “A popular deodorant brand for men decided to target men interested in sports. Our analysis showed that it wasn’t men but women who were the most frequent buyers of that deodorant. Guys interested in sports have a beer in one hand and the remote in the other, while his wife – in an act of despair – would buy him the deodorant,” said Piotr Prajsnar, CEO of Cloud Technologies, a big data firm.
MORE THAN ONE DEVICE
In order to get to know your customer, you need to know where and how they shop. According to research by Google, as much as 85 percent of online shoppers start shopping with one channel and finalize it with another. Multichannel clients make purchases more often, spending three times more than consumers operating in only one of these channels, said Paweł Pierścionek, Chief Technology Officer at Cludo, a SaaS solutions provider for call and contact center management. “This forces companies to invest in software that identifies the buyer as one and the same person, regardless of the device they are using, and integrates all the information about the client in one system.”
Once you’ve collected all the data about your clients in one system, you can open a dialogue with them. “An increasing number of e-commerce businesses use virtual communication platforms, which allow them to interact with the client at different contact points: in the brick-and-mortar store, via a form on the website, through chat, email, a contact center and even social media,” Pierścionek added.
Cloud-based “as a Service” software seems to be the ideal fit to collate data from many sources and to produce valuable actable insights in the process. UCaaS (Unified Communication as a Service) solutions combine the history of communication with a client, information on which sales channels they use most frequently as well as the client’s interests, preferences and previous purchases.
According to Markets&Markets, cloud solutions integrating communication channels will continue to grow at an average rate of 10 percent a year. The number of retailer-customer communication platforms will continue to grow, “also because of the preferences of Gen-Y and Gen-Z, which are becoming the dominant purchasing power in the market. For them all things tech, mobile and multi-channel are natural and it is their preferences that will decide whether or not a company survives,” Pierścionek said.
BACK TO BRICK-AND-MORTAR
But omnichannel tech is not only about the online and mobile aspects of retail. A significant number of tech companies are focusing predominantly on the offline channel, beefing it up with some cutting-edge solutions. For example, mirrors that can also display ads and special offers are making their way into shopping malls, bars, clubs and gas stations. They can also be used to offer matching accessories to clients in the store’s changing room. How about face recognition payments to make the shopping experience as seamless and as enjoyable as possible? Some of these ideas are still at the development stage, but just as with beacons in shopping malls, once they come into play, they will make an entrance. “The quick growth of the IoT sector will surely make the retail space of the future more connected and more digitalized,” said Kreft.
The Gemius research also points out a strong ROPO (research online, purchase offline) effect in terms of durable and electronic products such as home appliances, cars, building materials or telephones and accessories. Pharmaceuticals are also often checked online and purchased in the traditional way (48 percent of buyers declare such behavior for this category).
As Walker Sands reported in the “Future of Retail,” we can already see a regressive trend of more and more shoppers wanting to shop in brick-and-mortar locations. “But it doesn’t mean e-commerce or mobile were ever bubbles. They are certainly here to stay and will keep pushing brick-and-mortar locations more often towards being showrooms and fun-spots. And that’s where technology, like AR or VR could really make an impact,” said Kreft.
One thing is certain: technology creates opportunities. “For retailers, this means researching the start-up scene, experimenting with different solutions, having flexibility and innovation as core organizational and customer-centric values, therefore creating unforgettable retail experiences,” he concluded.
RETAIL ON DISPLAY
Start-ups will likely play an increasingly important role in transforming retail and bringing all the sales channels together. Here’s a selection of companies that are part of the Omnichannel program run by The Heart, a European center for corporate-start-up collaboration located in Warsaw. The Heart brings together major industry players like Mastercard, Carrefour or Philips to define the most pressing innovation challenges in retail, attract and select the best late stage start-ups and work with them towards pilot implementations
Synerise provides a platform that automates marketing campaigns, generates actionable analytics, controls loyalty programs and manages CRM. The platform enables the development and usage of loyalty programs through integration with POS systems. It offers modules for creation of multi-channel campaigns across SMS, push, beacon, wifi and email. CRM features include Audience Segmentation, Database I/O, campaign workflow automation, internal task collaboration tools as well as lead management functionality.
Spark Software developed a special mobile checkout application designed to be used both in traditional and internet shops. It is targeted at regular shoppers, ensuring loyalty through discounts and personalized promotions. Furthermore, it shortens queuing time by allowing clients to scan products with their phone and to pack them directly into a bag or a trolley.
Lab4motion closes the marketing loop with the ability to match customers’ online and offline behavior. Its technology is based on secure and privacy compliant video image processing technology combined with other sources. It provides comprehensive real-time analytics of business processes allowing access to the customer journey, experience and service at every level.
Abyss Glass is a developer and manufacturer of interactive mirrors that can be used as an advertising surface. The Abyss Glass team noticed that mirrors naturally attract customers’ attention, hence, content which appears right on the mirror’s surface is highly noticeable. The client can change the content with a simple hand gesture, scrolling through the menu, buying and viewing products. The most unique aspect of this product is the fact that you see your reflection and the content at the same time, creating a perception of augmented reality.
Paris-based Augment is one example of a start-up bringing together the best of both worlds. By connecting on- and offline channels through an augmented reality platform, they are able to create a seamless omnichannel retail experience, already driving engagement and sales for companies like Coca-Cola and L’Oréal.
Biyo uses the unique vein patterns in your palm to create the most secure and convenient password that you never have to remember. Authentication takes less than a second, and you won’t have to wait for any receipts to sign. Easily keep track of your wallet and previous transactions online or on your mobile app.
About The Heart:
Located on the 38th floor of Warsaw Spire, The Heart is the entry point for fast growing tech companies, investors and leading multinational corporations to Central European markets. The center focuses on thematic programs related to FinTech, Omnichannel, HealthTech and Real Estate. The Omnichannel program has been divided into three areas that will have a major impact on the retail industry in the coming years, such as Customer Intelligence, Marketing & Sales Automation and Future Point of Sale.