3 Ways to Connect Your Online to In-Store and Create a Meaningful Retail Experience

“Omnichannel” means nothing to most shoppers. If anything, it's an expectation most shoppers have every time they walk into a store.

A meaningful, personalized, brand experience – the ability to walk into any store and have the option to get exactly the product they want, where they want it and when they want it is a baseline expectation. Your digital and physical stores should be working in tandem with each other to create a fully immersive experience and customer journey.

Contrary to dramatic-headline-loving analysts, physical retail is not dead. According to Digital Commerce e-commerce accounted for only 13% of total retail sales in 2017. Brands listening to their customers know, most customers still enjoy the act of shopping in-person. Retail is a human experience.

That’s not to say that e-commerce should be ignored.  A study by Deloitte Digital found that 76% of consumers surveyed “interact with brands or products before arriving at the store, and are therefore making digitally influenced decisions much earlier in the shopping process.” Consumers start their shopping experience digitally. They research the brand or product and read reviews before – or even during – the shopping experience.

Brands looking to take their business to the next level should actively take steps to merge the online and offline worlds together to create a holistic experience that compliments each other.

Here are three ways retailers can strengthen and augment the connection between in-store and online to create valuable shopper experiences:

1) User Generated Content (UGC)

Shoppers trust the reviews and opinions of their peers and friends more than they do brand advertising, and are heavily influenced by UGC when making a purchasing decision. Pew Research center has found that “82% of U.S. adults say they at least sometimes read online customer ratings or reviews before purchasing items for the first time, including 40% who say they always or almost always do so.” Social proof is everything to consumers, and it doesn’t have to exist only online.  Most brands recognize the importance of implementing UGC on their sites and social media profiles to increase conversions. But many don’t realize that the power of UGC can be implemented in brick-and-mortar stores, too, and can be just as effective.

Place displays of UGC reviews and social posts next to specific products. This can be incredibly effective in swaying a shopper’s decision, enabling your customers and fans to tell your brand story in a way you never could. Placing tablets, iPads, videos or larger visual posters with streams of UGC curated content, will not only give your customers access to see that people like your products, but also the various ways of styling your products with other pieces in your store. Think of UGC as a living, breathing Pinterest page.

UGC not only creates customer receptiveness to brand and product messaging, it also builds a sense of community. Shoppers don’t like to feel isolated during their buying process, encouraging shoppers to join and participate in your online communities will turn them into brand advocates willing to share your brand’s story.

2) In-Store Pickup

It’s important that your customers have an integrated shopping experience online that is easily transferable to your physical locations. Creating systems to manage your inventory in real-time will help provide a more immersive experience for your customers. Customers expect that you will have top of the line, transparent shipping options that are personalized for their needs. Customers have increasingly high expectations and personal preferences that play a big role in their purchasing process.

Consider giving customers the option of in-store pickup. Providing options the option for your customers to pick their products up in the store is an excellent opportunity to transfer your online experience into a physical experience for your customers. Utilize this option to give customers a personalized and preferential shopping experience, while simultaneously boosting foot traffic. Alternatively, you should think about creating systems that allow customers to order in-store with an option of delivering straight to their home. Streamlining your inventory system to enable real-time inventory management will go a long way in creating multiple sales opportunities and put customers through new sales funnels.

Remember, an omnichannel experience doesn’t end at the point of sale but includes returns as well. As with shipping, it’s important to offer customers a variety of return options to meet their expectations and enhance their overall shopping experience. Consider offering in-store returns for online purchases. If you have an E-Commerce store, include a return label in your outbound package, or make it easy for customers to contact you for a return shipping label. Take the friction out of your customer's life, and they will continue to come back to you.

3) Chat Bots

Removing stress for both your clients and customers is paramount to create an increasingly experiential physical location for your customers. While there is no one single fix to customer inquiries, chatbots, can help alleviate some of the customer service pains, by speeding up the payment process and answering questions that customers have in real-time. Chatbots help address and aggregate the high volume of FAQ’s that will inevitably reach your service team. Understanding the most common questions, concerns, and areas of confusion for customers will allow you to be better prepared to innovate and implement changes in order to please customers faster and more accurately.

Chatbots will allow retailers to remove some of the pain points that come from the shopping experience as well; making it less administrative, and instead allows the retailer and consumer to focus more on the experiential aspects of your physical locations.

Technology shouldn’t be the downfall of physical retail, instead, the two can work in tandem to help provide unparalleled, immersive shopping experiences geared at creating value and memorable experiencing for everyone that walks through your brands digital or physical store.

krista