Retail businesses have evolved quickly in the past decade with online retail becoming a stable and significant part of the retail industry. Brick and mortar stores have given rise to online stores and there is heavy competition amidst these stores than ever before. With ecommerce sites and subscription services, the common man has several choices when it comes to where he decides to spend his time and money.
To stay afloat, you need to give consumers strong reasons to visit your online store and shop. Enhancements are in order. And we suggest you start with a steady focus on enhancing shopper experience with experiential retail.
Hello, shopper! How may I help you?
The most important part of making a sale is not really hearing the cling-clang in your till. It is about forging a good relationship with the customer for a long time. Acquiring a customer takes time, effort and money.
If you observe closely, a brick and mortar store that’s been doing well for years together does one thing that you need to incorporate in your online business model. And that’s assigning an associate from being a sales person to being a consultant, expert, or friend. And when it’s online, it’s easier. All you do is create personas and invest in chat bots. When a customer is looking for a product, say a smart TV and he has questions about it, he would be delighted to find a chat bot appear on the site, ready and equipped to answer questions like, ‘what is the difference between an OLED and an LED’? or ‘should I opt for a chrome cast/fire stick than a smart TV?’
With a chat bot, you need a lot less training and you can intervene when questions need human answers than auto generated answers. The data that customers generate via chat conversations can also help you study their behavior better.
Present merchandise enticingly
Online presentation is a different ball game altogether. While there is no headache of making use of available retail store space, there is the worry of presenting all the wares your site offers in an interesting manner.
First things, first: work on getting classifications and site layout right. If a customer is looking for a smart OLED 55 inch TV in red, available for delivery in 2 days, you need to have the right set of filters that will display the product with minimal searching.
Next, photographs are passé. Customers decide on their buys with videos now. If you sell a container for the kitchen, add a video that demonstrates its use. Or go a step further and create a Virtual Reality app which would show customers how that product will look on their counter top!
Another way to go about this would be to go the extra mile. Just like Canada Goose did recently. The retailer set up ice rooms inside a few of its stores where people could try out Canada Goose jackets in the temperatures they were created to withstand. Yep, there were temperatures fixed till Arctic level freezing. Not only did this create great excitement, even people who had no inclination of buying the expensive jackets visited the store to experience the cold room.
Needless to say, several people who just came in for the experience ended up buying a jacket as well. The idea worked really well for the brand both with creating a brand image and a brand differentiator (not that you can mix up the brand with others anyway).
Synchronize physical and digital stores
If you have an online store in tandem with your physical store, work on synchronizing them. Modern consumers are aware of multiple channels, platforms and devices. What you offer in one format needs to match with the other. Let’s say you are a 30 year old brand who’s now going digital, along with your physical store/s. A customer who’s been loyal to your brand for a while now wants to shift to the online model for his convenience. And he is going to be unhappy if his preferred customization is unavailable in the online format. It could be as simple as offering extra sprinkles on an unusual coupling of ice cream flavors. Don’t end up losing a customer over this!
Enable click-and-collect options
The customer chooses a product online, pays for it and wants to collect it at the store. Make this service seamless. He is actually helping you out by offering to collect it himself, eliminating your shipping cost and effort. Moreover, you get the online customer visit the physical store. And who knows, he might buy more there as well. So, help him out. It is a shame if the customer pays for a product beforehand, comes to the store and finds a huge queue. It’s worst ever customer experience if he arrives only to find that the product is unavailable at that outlet and there’s been an inventory mismatch.
Have a centralized retail solution portal that lets you manage inventory orders, sales, and customers from a single system. There is no room for error here. If you follow separate systems for your physical and online stores, work on integrating them.
Many stores face the problem of catering to both traditional and click and collect customers at the same time in physical stores. Ensure that the items a customer wishes to pick up are in stock and available at their preferred store. Using an efficient inventory management system can help with this.
For information on the best inventory management tools available, you can read here.
Moreover, let shoppers browse your online shop in your physical store. This works like a charm if you have multiple stores and not all stores offer everything. For example, supermarket chains have express stores in convenient locations where you can step in to buy that carton of milk. And then, there are bigger stores where you get everything, from table salt to life insurance. Letting people browse your ecommerce site in-store lets them see products or variants that you don’t have in store. And if they like something online, you don’t lose the order as they can place it then and there.
Build a community
The basic fabric of society is much needed even in online stores. Physical stores where were people met, relationships were forged and conversations happened. For example, someone holding a book by a certain author in a book store probably found his intellectual companion and they struck conversation over that book, then and there.
If you retail camping gear, you can look at offering camping ideas that integrate the camping community. Or, if you sell books, you can probably have book talks and reviews where people assemble and talk about the book. This can happen in a physical place or in a virtual chat room or video commune. People will find extra motivation to associate themselves with your brand. The idea is to integrate your shoppers in a community and be associated with them for a long, long time.
Take the Museum of Ice cream for instance. The concept has been created in such a manner that visitors are immersed in a wholesome retail experience from the moment they set foot onto the premises. The fact that all the stores are different also works in the retailer’s favor, as visitors look forward to the new additions or modifications every new location has to offer.
The founders of the Museum have focused more on using tech to support what their physical store has to offer instead of hinging solely on technology to create an experiential retail environment like several other high end stores have been doing. Be it AR, AI or mini robots moving around, they only complement the work of the staff in store.
Oh yeah, that’s a pool. But a sprinkle pool! With candy floats!
Things like this have ensured that a community of followers has been created for the retailer – a community of people who share their experiences on social media, through word of mouth, et al. The more people who are talking of your brand, the better!
The real challenge in offering an experiential retail environment is to create an ambience that not only stays with the customer long after he/she leaves the store, but to create one that pushes them to share the experience with others!
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