A recent Deloitte survey on consumer holiday shopping plans contained some interesting news for brick-and-mortar retailers. While online purchases continue to nibble away at in-person shopping margins, consumers are seeking the best of both worlds. In greater numbers, they’re visiting stores to check out products before purchasing online, or purchasing online and picking items up in-store.
Exactly half of consumers surveyed engaged in “showrooming” — checking out products in-store and then purchasing online. Slightly less than half were “click and collect” shoppers who bought things online and picked them up in-store. As an added wrinkle, shoppers are using mobile devices as virtual shopping assistants, searching product and pricing information on their smartphones while in-store.
This means retailers must deliver a great customer experience across every channel — in-store, online and mobile. In some cases, that will mean rethinking the in-store experience. Successful retailers have considered factors like product mix, placement and store configuration to optimize foot traffic. Now is a good time to make sure your own layout works for people who are picking up merchandise purchased online.
It’s also a good idea to make it simple to redeem online promotions when consumers come into a store. A cloud-based solution like POPcodes can build a bridge between an online promotion, purchase or loyalty point system and an in-store pickup or purchase. However, no matter what strategy or solution you use, the critical thing is to deliver a consistent experience across all channels.
It’s also worth taking a look at your online sales hub from the perspective of a “click and collect” buyer. Is it easy to learn about the product online? Do your website visitors have access to technical specifications, videos and reviews? Most crucially for this audience segment: Is it easy to tell which products are available at your store locations?
Mobile adds another dimension to the shopping experience. If you’re not interacting with customers via mobile, this is a great time to engage them through a loyalty program. Ask for their preferences about how they would like to be contacted (text, voice, social media, etc.), and be prepared to respect their choices. Furthermore, make sure the mobile experience is consistent with the customer experience on other platforms.
At the dawn of the internet age, some feared that technology would make human connections more tenuous across many types of interactions, including retail. It hasn’t played out that way, however. We’re still human beings, even when interacting via chat rooms. The human voice is still incredibly powerful, even when relayed via video or audio file.
And consumers still have the capacity to confound analysts and surprise brands. Their embrace of an omnichannel customer experience is evidence that people are infinitely creative in pursuit of the things they want. If you think about it, the “click and collect” customer relationship is great for both the buyer and the seller. The consumer gets hassle-free shopping and instant gratification, and the retailer drives traffic to the store while saving on shipping costs.
Thanks to technology, consumers have gained considerable power in their relationships with retailers. They reach the point of purchase with more knowledge and resources than they did in the past. They have social networks they consult before making purchasing decisions. And most of them carry around a virtual shopping assistant in their pocket.
However, technology gives retailers amazing new opportunities to forge relationships with their customers. By redefining omnichannel as part of a holistic customer experience, delivering consistent information and making the customer journey as friction-free as possible across channels, retailers can gain a significant edge over competitors and build long-lasting loyalty.