Contemporary shoppers equipped with new technologies – A combination that is compelling brick-and-mortar retailers as well as online ones to up their game. The outcome and necessity is to bid adieu to the online versus offline retail war and unite the two to take shopping experiences sky-high.
Tilting preferences towards online shopping are triggered mainly by nagging pain points of in-store experiences like an indifferent staff, stock unavailability, unending check-out queues, etc. Nevertheless, a study says that 70% shoppers still desire the human interaction facilitated by physical retail. Retailers can capitalize on by this by enhancing the vital appeal elements of brick-and-mortar stores like ambience, courteous and well-informed staff, personalized interaction, adequate stock, easy check-out and – a generous helping of technology.
For instance, when someone checks products on your e-store, encourage them to visit your closest physical store. Uncertain customers particularly benefit as they can examine products in person, get assistance and make better purchase decisions. Fewer chances of returns, happier customers, and higher sales ensue.
Nike has an interesting in-store tech innovation. A buyer can customize a shoe in the store and collect it in one hour flat. Along with a sense of exclusivity, customers get the satisfaction of not having bought a mass-produced product, and a good incentive to ditch digital and visit a physical store instead.
Mobile shopping is here to stay
Every week, millions of retailer apps are downloaded and about 4 of 10 consumers interact with brands through them. Smart retailers are therefore moving beyond the practice of making apps a dull extension of their website and giving customers convincing reasons to actually use the app.
Popwallet tells people to leave their purses at home. When users view and save ads/content from emails, online ads, social media, etc., Popwallet stores them in the users’ mobile wallet and marketers can then target those users with relevant personalized notifications or updates. Thus, brands are able to market effectively but effortlessly, as people visit physical stores after getting Popwallet reminders.
With 79% millennial shoppers claiming that customized offers boost their willingness to buy, personalization will continue to be a key purchasing incentive. Taking cues, some retail stores are pushing instantly redeemable discounts/offers to customers’ mobile phones while they are inside the physical store.
New York-based Cosmose uses customers’ mobile phone apps to slot them into one of four different categories – 1) Lost souls 2) Browsing 3) Outside a store, possibly willing to visit 4) Loyal customers. This categorization, along with the application of conversion-driving data, is used to decide whether to push a personalized message or promote an offering.
Self-checkout is getting popular too. It gives customers the option to shop, bag and scan their products, then, using merchant mobile apps, pay via their cell phone/credit card or a dedicated store mobile app. Long check-out queues? Thing of the past!
Super smart apps
A study shows that 90% users whip out their mobiles in-store while shopping, indicating that e-commerce apps can smartly be used to enhance offline shopping experiences.
For example, if a customer is checking products in a physical store, the e-commerce app can be used to instantly furnish more product details, prices, offers, reviews, etc. The apps can also be used to re-engage customers after a purchase and entice them to return to the store by offering complimentary product deals to ones already bought, relevant offers, etc.
Using iBeacons, retailers can leverage geolocation marketing to make in-store product information and deals known to customers at the point of sale, also promote the closest brick-and-mortar stores. It also enables analysing details of past store visits to understand what products customers lean towards.
Online and offline – Nail them both
Some offline retailers are building their online presence, some online-only brands are opening their physical stores. The idea? To let customers have it all.
Amazon has started a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Chicago that stocks only those books with high ratings on the Amazon website. The brand is using its extensive online experience and collecting data and intelligence to design an intriguing, customized offline experience too.
No more separation
Online and offline need not be isolated. For seamless, flexible, high-quality customer experiences, omnichannel is the way forward. Data analysis; in-depth market and product knowledge; a deeper understanding of customer behaviour/preferences/purchase drivers; and intelligent technology applications can help get there.
Reserve/Click-and-collect is an excellent solution for shoppers who dislike waiting for product delivery, hence hit the high street, but find the product, not in stock. Click-and-collect indicates (on the web) the product’s availability in the physical store, saving customers time, effort, and disappointment.
Additionally, numerous retail stores are moving beyond the tokenistic technology approach and using Virtual Reality (VR) holistically to personalise offerings like never before. French-headquartered home improvement and gardening retailer Leroy Merlin has developed a VR visualizer for their ready-built kitchens. In-store customers can put on Oculus Rift (A VR system that plunges the viewer inside virtual worlds to enable ‘real’ product visualizations) and check how the full kitchen catalogue would look like from all angles.
Uniting physical and online stores give customers complete flexibility in terms of purchase options while establishing brand credibility for retailers. With an omnichannel strategy, customers can:
- Purchase a product online and have it delivered to their location
- View a product online, then check and buy it at the physical store
- View a product online, check it at the physical store, then buy it online
- Check a product in the physical store, but buy it online
- Order a product online, but collect it from the physical store
The growing dynamism of the retail industry is blurring the lines between online and offline retail. While e-commerce portals instantly offer product details, comparisons, reviews, stock availability, and mobile payment conveniences; physical stores render the touch-and-sense factor.
So, whether you are a brick-and-mortar establishment or an e-tailer, now is the time to be truly versatile by converging online and offline platforms to deliver smashing customer experiences. And if today’s shoppers are no longer fixated on ‘channels’ when it comes to shopping – As a retailer, should you? ')}