It’s easy to see e-commerce growth as something that has simply occurred as a result of consumers’ changing shopping preferences. But there’s a little more to it. In fact, the evolution and growth of e-commerce in the past two decades has primarily been driven by making the online experience as good as the in-store one.
Increasingly, the lines between online and brick-and-mortar are blurring. More store-like experiences can be found online, and let’s not forget how digital channels can actually drive customers into the actual retail store as well. That’s good for sales, too. If you’re a retail store owner, here are five ways you can merge online and brick-and-mortar in-store experiences to boost sales.
1) Digitize the fitting room
If you have ever hesitated to buy clothes or shoes online because you were scared they wouldn’t look right on you, you’re not alone. But unfortunately, when a customer finds a reason not to buy right now, even if they might buy later, you will likely lose them. So, retailers are finding ways around this problem by bringing the fitting room to the online customer.
Retailers have found ways to digitize certain “try-on” experiences. Sephora has purchased digital technologies so its customers can see how a product might look on their skin without going into the store. Shoe companies have turned to apps like “Wanna Kicks” to help people visualize shoes on their feet. And Alibaba partnered with Guess to create a virtual fitting room. When you browse through the Guess app, based on the information you give it, you can see how it looks on you when you choose something from a rack.
Whether online or in-store, your customers are looking for a more personalized experience tailored to fit their needs. By bringing the fitting room to them, you can increase engagement with your buyers. After they leave your store, they will likely remember your efforts to make their experience as personalized as possible.
2) Cashless is king
Today’s e-commerce stores are home to a fast, frictionless checkout. It’s not that retailers don’t try to upsell or suggest other items, but customers expect a fluid, simplified experience. So, that also means your in-store checkouts should be just as smooth and efficient as your online ones, and don’t forget to have a wide range of digital payment methods available as well. But you can also leverage a smooth checkout in another way.
Companies such as Starbucks have made digital checkout a marketing and sales tool. With a simple download of their app and customers can order, pay, and reload money quickly. They can also avoid a line at pickup.
If you’re a retailer, think of how you can shorten the checkout line for in-store patrons and use technology to drive them into the store in the first place. Use speed, efficiency, and easy customer pickup to your advantage.
3) Make chatbots part of your salesforce
You may recall how annoying those early chatbots were. Many created more frustration for customers than benefits. But today’s bots utilize AI, machine learning, and natural language processing to create a digital assistant for shoppers.
If you want to use a chatbot, it’s important to remember that it needs to be developed to allow you to learn about the customer’s needs first. Determine the reason why the customer has sought out web support; then, you can leverage the contact it has with your customer to make product recommendations. And don’t forget to usher them toward check out if they’re ready.
Chatbots are a great way to free up your employees for other tasks, but that should not be the only driving reason to use them. When bots engage with your customers, their role is threefold: enhance the customer experience through personalization, drive sales and collect valuable information for future sales.
4) Use data correctly
Leveraging data to improve your customer’s experience is vital. As a retailer, your in-store POS system should merge its data with online checkout data. You can analyze shopper preferences in great detail to understand which incentives work well and enjoy a more holistic view of your shopper’s behavior and a deeper understanding of their need for your product.
Data-backed marketing can boost sales. For example, with data, you can develop your app to target customers with the right offer. In addition, geolocation can support your timing too. If they’re near your store, that might be a great time to offer a great sale on the product you know they want.
5) Nurture brick-and-mortar engagement
Research has shown that customers usually buy more when they are inside your brick-and-mortar location than online. Surveys of Gen Z retail customers have also found that this tech-loving generation still loves the in-store experience. With all the talk of online sales, in-store experiences aren’t going anywhere.
So, don’t be afraid to use social media promotions that encourage shoppers to go to your store to test a new product or check out a sale. Customers will probably engage with you online first by visiting your social media channels or website. It’s most likely how they learned about your store in the first place. But getting them to that personalized experience inside the store is a win for overall sales.
They can engage with the product firsthand and enjoy support from a knowledgeable staff member. Shopping in-store is a perfect opportunity for your staff to provide exceptional customer service for your new and existing customers. Creating a positive, memorable experience will encourage your patrons to support you by shopping both in-store and online. As your business takes in information and data, you can nurture future online and in-store sales alike.
If you own a retail store, you probably have seen how your brick-and-mortar and online customer experiences have merged in some ways. It’s essential to keep your in-store experience positive while bringing that personal touch to your online store as well. Maintaining blurred lines is a great way to support a positive customer experience, which is the foundation for meeting any ambitious sales goal.