Merging the customer experience between online and offline channels is nothing new to the retail industry. Add the pandemic-driven wave to online shopping, and now speed, efficiency, convenience and overall brand experience are driving purchasing decisions – creating a new wave of expectations when shoppers head into physical stores. Even with the surge in online shopping, brick and mortar is proving to be a key part of consumers’ shopping mix. In fact, one in four consumers choose to mix physical and digital channels and nearly three-quarters (72%) use physical stores as all or part of their primary purchase method. The bottom line – physical stores are certainly not going away, but they are changing.
Welcome hybrid shopping. A way to create an experience that not only focuses on personalization, but also convenience and brand engagement. Hybrid shopping doesn’t look at online and offline shopping as distinct experiences, but as a connected one. It helps stores go from merely a place to buy things to product showrooms (e.g. Parachute, Allbirds), distribution hubs (where customers can go to pick up or ship online orders), or places to engage in community and find entertainment (e.g. Lego).
With hybrid shopping as the new norm, getting it right is critical. Most consumers (80%) said they will abandon a retailer after three bad experiences. Below are trends to consider when creating a more connected experience for your shoppers.
Blurring the lines between online and in-store shopping
Make it easier and faster to pay in-store
Yes, shoppers want to pay the way they want to pay. Whether it’s Venmo, Paypal, Alipay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and even crypto – they expect to pay however the heck they want. Next up, retailers need to make it faster. Instead of making shoppers stand in line just to pay for their replacement lipstick, a store associate generates a QR code that shoppers can scan to pay from their mobile device — and off they go. Or if a shopper calls in to guarantee she gets her hands on that previously sold out handbag, make it easy for your sales associate to place the order and send her a text with a link to pay by phone. Or, depending on your crowd, cater to every shopper by accepting Bitcoin at a self-service kiosk. It’s all about making the final stretch of the purchase journey fast and convenient.
Don’t just welcome shoppers, wow them
When a customer shops online, that data shouldn’t be inaccessible when they decide to shop in-store the next time around. Making shoppers feel welcome is table stakes. Sales associates need to translate any digital preferences into personalized, memorable experiences in-store. Engage first-time shoppers by asking them to fill out a form on their phones via QR code, and offer them 20% off as a thank you. The shopper receives the same promo offer as if they were entering a website for the first time, and the brand gets a little bit more information on the shopper’s preferences. Armed with this data, retailers can anticipate shoppers’ needs and wow them with personalized product recommendations or suggestions. If a shopper isn’t sure about the latest t-shirt collab between a limited edition sneaker and is now hesitant to buy, give him styling ideas based on what other local shoppers bought.
It’s all about engaging your shoppers while they’re in-store in new ways and giving them a reason to come back. Ralph Lauren, for example, adds QR codes to some of their labels to give shoppers styling tips and garment care instructions. Some Timberland stores now have interactive touch screens customized to each store location with the goal of driving direct engagement between the brand and its customer. With consumers constantly on digital devices and welcoming a closer connection to brands they shop, it’s a missed opportunity if retailers are not getting to know their shoppers better while they’re in-store.
Get innovative about inventory management
Online shopping has made shoppers a bit impatient when it comes to finding what they want, when they want it. With this in mind, retailers need to reassess how they meet shoppers’ expectations in-store. If the right size or color is not in stock, get it shipped directly from the warehouse or source it yourself and have the product shipped from another store location to the customer the next day. By having a full picture of inventory across all sources, in-store associates can accommodate every customer similarly to the way they expect when shopping online.
What wave should you ride first?
When it comes to determining where to start in your shift to offering hybrid shopping experiences, it’s key to include your customers in your journey. Send a survey or ask them directly across your social media channels about what is most important to them when it comes to shopping in your store – specifics around convenience, efficiency, personalization, brand engagement. From there, you can start small, see how your customers respond, and double down on what works..
Another consideration is finding the right tech partner to support a modern hybrid shopping experience for your customers. You’re not going to be able to create a connected customer experience with disconnected tools and systems behind the scenes. Find a partner with an omnichannel platform specific to retailers, that includes the tool sets for you to deliver exceptional customer experiences that wow your shoppers. So as you grow and expand your strategy, you won’t have to grow and expand your tool set.
To learn about how KWI’s omnichannel retail platform can help you deliver a true connected experience for your shoppers, contact us today.