This is a guest post written by Taylor Burke from TechnologyAdvice.com.
Last year, a major retail threshold was crossed — 51 percent of purchases are now being made online. Ecommerce has officially taken the lead over in-person shopping, which is interesting when you consider another statistic — 64 percent of shoppers report that they prefer making their purchases at brick-and-mortar stores.
If the majority of people prefer to shop in-person, why are they executing most of their purchasing power online? The answer is in the experience. Here are five ways retailers can improve the brick-and-mortar experience and reclaim customer loyalty.
1. Provide Different Payment Options
Speed and ease-of-use are two big factors moving shoppers online. When your credit card information and shipping address is already stored in your account, it’s infinitely easier to click “buy” than waiting in a checkout line behind people paying with cash, credit, or (gasp) checks.
Brick-and-mortars need to do their best to recreate the efficiency of ecommerce checkout experiences in-store. Cloud-based POS systems, which tie to mobile devices, allow team members to ring customers up anywhere in-store. Apple Pay is catching on as a speedy alternative to credit cards. Even replacing paper coupons with a mobile savings app (think Target’s Cartwheel) mimics the process of adding a promo code at online checkout, and prevents shoppers from getting stuck in line behind someone with a stack of cut outs.
2. Put on a Show
Online shopping is convenient — who wouldn’t want to get all their holiday gifts purchased while binge-watching Netflix? Perhaps someone who values a social experience over a solo one.
One of the reasons consumers still shop at brick-and-mortars is because of the experience. You don’t get together with friends to sit side-by-side and shop online. You do get together with friends for a day at the mall. You can capitalize on this by going above and beyond to create a memorable in-store experience. Think of your products as souvenirs — your store is the show. Make it worthy of a Tony.
Customer service is of course a factor in achieving that goal. However, you can get even more creative. A few ideas include:
- Seasonal “pop-up” stores.
- Product demos that allow customers to feel, see, and taste (you can’t do that online). Sephora’s 15-minute makeovers are a great example.
- VIP shopping events for loyal customers that include food, beverages, and after-hours exclusives.
- Making digital experiences real. Ralph Lauren, for example, created interactive mirrors to mimic social media filters in the dressing room.
- Aligned experiences such as the in-store yoga offered at many Athleta stores.
Whenever you create a special in-store experience, consider how you’ll encourage customers to share it online. Create easy photo opportunities and catchy hashtags. The more shares you get, the more your traffic will grow.
3. Keep Customer Service Your #1 Priority
Chat and text functionalities are making it easier for customers to connect with reps online. However, these features will never replace the human connection you can have in-person. Your employees are your number one weapon in the fight to keep customers loyal to your brick-and-mortar — 75 percent of consumers report human connection as their reason for shopping in-store.
Making the most of your employees’ power requires regular training. But perhaps more important than what you teach your employees is how you treat them. Engaged employees — those who feel valued, have opportunities to learn and grow, and are provided with the right tools to do their jobs well — outperform unengaged employees by 202 percent. Put your employees first, and the brick-and-mortar traffic will follow.
4. Incorporate Mobile In-Store
Even when consumers choose to shop in-store vs. online, they are still digitally connected. More than three-quarters of Americans have a smartphone, and they go pretty much everywhere we do. Instead of asking your shoppers to put their devices down, incorporate them into the experience.
Mothercare, for example, is a UK-based pregnancy and postnatal store with an app that supports its customers all throughout their motherhood journey. It has retail features, such as the ability to shop in-app and house in-store receipts for easy returns. And it also includes a baby namer, library of lullabies, timers to track kicks and contractions, advice videos, and more. Even if you don’t have the capacity to create your own app, tools like Shopkick can help create mobile gamification experiences for you.
5. Make Omnichannel Seamless
Online shopping isn’t going anywhere. Smart retailers have to adopt an “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” strategy. Make yourself available to customers both in-store and online and tailor each platform to what makes it unique. Lean into digital efficiency online so that customers in a rush can get what they need on a device. Focus on putting on a show in-store, so that when customers want tactile, social experiences, they know where to turn. Finally, make the two work together seamlessly.
Many retailers, for example, offer ship-to-store options that allow customers to shop online and pick up on site. It makes returns easy, shipping free, and drives foot traffic (and potential further purchases). Nordstrom even does the reverse, allowing customers to ship their in-store purchases to their home, no lugging around of bags required.
The World is Changing: So Must You
There can be no doubt that technology has changed and will continue to change the way people shop. It’s a new frontier. The brick-and-mortars that thrive will be those who use the open space to reimagine retail.