Omnichannel Retail Shopping [Part 2]
The Customer Experience
What They Want, Where They Want
Today’s consumers are shopping for what they want, whenever it is convenient for them, using many marketing channels, both online and offline. While we know that consumers are researching, reviewing, and selecting products online, we also know that they still purchase most products in person. Last month I noted that 90 percent of consumers still purchase products in person (Forrester Research). This provides many opportunities for retailers, they have the power to interact and influence consumers one-on-one in their store where the consumer can see, touch, and interact with their products.
First impressions matter, both online and offline. Your retail store should look and feel great when shoppers come in, and it is the same for your online store. Your brand presentation matters at all touchpoints. Shoppers that enter your store may be coming in to see a product in person, to compare similar items, or to pick up an item they chose and ordered online. Once in-store, they are very likely to make other purchases, either related to their initial product, or impulse purchases driven by seeing items in your store displays.
Every store visit matters and is a chance to engage one-on-one with your customer. It is the main advantage you have over online shopping and you have the opportunity to use a variety of sales and service tactics to engage with your in-store customers. It is imperative to keep a well stocked store. Seventy-one percent of online shoppers would pay a premium in stores of up to 5% more than the online price to get a product right away (Forrester Research).
It is easy for today’s consumer to be well educated on the items they want to purchase. Depending on the cost of an item, or the importance of the product they are looking for, they may spend hours researching that product online, learning about its features, reading customer reviews, and comparing prices. Often, the shopper is more informed about the product than the sales staff.
Retailers should strengthen their customer service by educating and empowering their staff as much as possible. Sales staff should have easy access to online product information, so if they don’t know something about an item they can look it up right then and there. They should also be able to quickly find inventory data for the customer, for example, is the item in stock, available at another location, or perhaps available direct from the manufacturer.
Train your staff in best practices for on the floor customer interaction and effective ways to increase sales because your staff knowledge provides value to your business and your customers. While consumers are researching online, quality information and experience from a real person while in your store is going to be highly influential.
We have all come to embrace technology and appreciate the convenience that it provides. The latest technology applies to a retailer’s online marketing, but it also offers new customer service options in your store. As a retailer you want to maximize the use of technology to create a positive experience for your customers.
I was recently at a Lenscrafters, one of the locations in a the chain of optical stores. Every sales associate was wearing a tablet at their waist. Using the tablets I saw them looking up color options for frames, looking for other frame styles from available brand options, checking pricing, etc. I also saw them use these tablets to photograph customers wearing each of the frame selections they were considering. The photos were both face front and to the side. Then the sales associate handed the tablet to the customer so they could look at the photos and see themselves in each style. So while they were doing more traditional functions with their tablets, like checking inventory, they had also added a new customer service feature that was not available previously. Customers really liked the photos! Seriously, one woman was ordering four pairs of glasses.
During that same trip to the mall I was looking for a jacket and when I chose one, the store did not have my size, so they ordered it for me online and the jacket was shipped, for free, right to my home. While this service has been available for some time, I noticed how instantly the salesperson offered it and then made it smooth and simple as she placed the order. The sales channels are now truly converging and brands must be happy to fulfill an order from whatever channel the customer prefers.
It is important that retailers keep pace with the services offered by big brands and box stores, and adapt some of those offerings to services in their retail store. Technology is now readily available, affordable, and provides excellent customer service options. Next month, we will look at some of those omnichannel services.