Poles are more attached to traditional shops than Germans and the British. Nevertheless, half of them are already shopping online

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E-commerce is developing very fast in Poland - this year it will be worth PLN 50 billion, and 15 million Poles are already shopping online. On the other hand, Polish consumers stand out from other nations by their attachment to the traditional sales channel. 49% want to be able to test products in a physical shop before buying - according to SAP research. Poles expect a consistent approach of brands to customers in all sales channels. This is a challenge for salespeople, where the implementation of appropriate technologies can be supported.

- It is estimated that this year Poles will spend about 50 billion PLN in the online channel, which does not, however, mean a collapse in the offline channel, i.e. physical shops. I think their role is changing. What customers expect is a certain integration of both channels and a consistent purchasing experience regardless of the way we purchase products or services - says Tomasz Niebylski, Sales Development Director at SAP Polska, Newseria Biznes news agency.

The entire trade - including the buying habits of customers and the vendors' approach to customer service - is in a phase of change due to technological developments. According to a report by Ecommerce Europe and SAP, 49 percent, or about 15 million Poles, do regular online shopping. Year after year, this percentage is growing and Poland is one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets in the world.

Nevertheless, the traditional segment still plays an important role in Poland. According to PwC, the share of e-commerce in total retail trade in Poland is only about 5 percent. In countries such as China, South Korea, Germany or the United Kingdom it is more than twice as high. This means that traditional shops are still the most popular sales channel. Many customers still treat shopping as a way of spending their leisure time, and in a traditional shop they can also touch, watch and try it on or seek advice from a qualified retailer.

- As many as 49% of Poles declare that they need physical contact with the product in a traditional shop. For the Polish consumer, this process must somehow permeate. On the one hand, we are very eager to go online, initiating the purchasing process, but the part related to checking, trying, receiving or returning the product often takes place in the traditional channel - says Tomasz Niebylski.

According to SAP Consumer Propensity Report, Poland is among the countries where the possibility of testing products in a physical store is particularly important for consumers. Only Russians are ahead of us in this respect (56% want to test the product in the shop). For comparison, in Germany, the UK and France this percentage is 29, 34 and 38% respectively.

- As consumers we also expect a consistent experience. We want to be treated in the same way regardless of the channel in which the purchasing process takes place. Poles also expect consistent prices on the online and offline channels. As many as 40 percent of customers are able to give up contact with a given brand and purchase a product at all if they find that there are price differences between the two channels - says Tomasz Niebylski.

Therefore, one of the biggest challenges for retailers is to build a multi-channel customer contact strategy to provide them with an integrated and positive experience both online and offline.

- You have to combine the best features of both these channels. In the online channel it is convenient to compare goods and prices, because we have access to a number of different tools. On the other hand, the offline channel gives a much better opportunity to interact with the customer. If there is a shop assistant who is interested in the customer and checks his preferences, the shopping experience is much richer. Companies should combine these features in a clever, intelligent way so that the purchasing process draws the best from each channel - says Tomasz Niebylski.

As he emphasizes, building a multi-channel, coherent strategy of customer contact in the digital and traditional channels requires appropriate IT solutions for the retail industry. These, among other things, support the customer's interaction process and help to create personalized offers. According to last year's report of the Kronenberg Foundation and Citi Handlowy, 39% of companies believe that using solutions such as machine learning or big data to better personalize the offer for clients is currently one of the biggest challenges for the e-commerce industry. For almost half (45%) of them, such a challenge is also to facilitate the process of communication between the client and the brand.

- IT tools are necessary. If a shop wants to address a personalized offer to a customer, it must have the right tools to build marketing strategies. Consumers are annoyed by the flood of offers that do not concern them and do not meet their expectations. This can effectively dissuade the customer from contact with the brand. This cannot be done manually, advanced IT tools are needed. These gather data on customer preferences and use, for example, artificial intelligence and predictive mechanisms to create personalized offers for a specific customer - says Tomasz Niebylski.

An example of using the potential created by IT tools in retail are implementations carried out by SAP in Poland and abroad. In SPAR Switzerland, which manages a chain of 160 grocery stores, the company implemented the SAP Marketing Cloud platform. Within a week of its launch, the SPAR Friends loyalty program attracted 20,000 customers, and in the next few months - over 100,000 in total.

- The program awards participants with free purchases - one transaction per thousand is free. When he comes to the checkout, the customer finds out that he is the thousandth consumer for whom shopping is free. On the one hand, the company strongly attracts these customers, and on the other hand, it collects information about what customers put in the basket, what their preferences are and, on this basis, creates personalized offers for them in the mobile application - explains Tomasz Niebylski.

Last year SAP created C/4 HANA package, i.e. integration of its solutions supporting relationship building in both B2B and B2C channels. The system analyses shopping habits, current stock and trends, creating a personalized offer for the customer based on these data. Such a solution was implemented by Under Armour, one of the leading companies on the sportswear market.

- Under Armour has built sensors into its boots that collect information about the number of kilometres driven. Thanks to this, the customer will be notified that the parameters of his shoes, e.g. sole elasticity, have fallen below certain thresholds and their further use may result in injury and it is worth thinking about buying a new pair. The company, knowing who uses these shoes, what their wear profile is, whether they are running in the field or on hard surfaces, is able to offer the customer a new, suitable model for them. Through an incentive in the form of an additional discount of 5 percent when picked up in a traditional store, it is possible to sell other services, such as a dedicated nutrition program. In this way, an ecosystem is built that binds the customer to a given brand and triggers positive experiences in the customer," stresses the Sales Development Director at SAP Polska.

The use of new technologies in trade and the advantages resulting from this were the main topic of the April edition of SAP Intelligent Enterprise Truck in Warsaw.

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