Error 404: It’s No More Online VS Offline- It’s An Integrated Customer Experience
“Your order is out for delivery” VS “your cab is arriving in 10 min”—ask yourself? Which notification gives you more comfort when you plan to do shopping?
Apparently, this is the dilemma every consumer faces while making a purchasing decision.
The influencing factors that ticks to landing on this decision can depend on states like how much time you have, where you’ll get the best deals, and a variety of options to choose from –all these under the bracket of speed, convenience, and comfort.
And you have the answer-eCommerce apps racing ahead of the physical stores.
Not much to your surprise, consumers spent $861.02 billion online in the U.S. in 2020, an incredible 44.0% jump compared with 2019.
The reasons for local store chains’ slowdown can be translated to digital accelerant none other than mCommerce apps.
Accuse giants like Amazon and other eCommerce market players for providing faster deliveries at a greater value by letting consumers order things from the comfort of their couches.
eCommerce app solutions have become more than just a trend. With endless perks, it has become the most favorite option for many of us:
- You don’t have to leave your couches
- You can opt for faster deliveries
- You can access hundreds of options in a fraction of seconds
- View more product details
- Carve a personalized shopping experience through a range of filters
- Opt for cash on delivery or online payment with easy returns
- Get cashback, offers, super-deals, and whatnot
According to research from PwC and the Local Data Company, store openings and closures surveys, 17,532 chain stores closed down over the last 12 months, while only 7655 opened up – equating to 48 stores closing every day in the UK alone. Here we of course know COVID and the country-wide lockdown is the answer for the steep decline in the closures of local retail store chains.
Factors That Stops Retailers from Succeeding
In this race of “Online VS Offline” as we have seen, eCommerce making it big.
However, this doesn’t anyway makes it the winner and lessens the importance of retail store chains. Given, only UNLESS the in-store experiences meet the consumer’s high bar expectations and mentality.
What Consumers Want And What Retailers Are Failing To Match?
Today’s consumers just want to find a product with a minimum effort and a competitive price.
The consumers’ mentality taking a dig on retail stores:
- The store should be “always-on”- a 24/7 shopping experience
- Real-time insight into product availability at individual stores
- Consistent prices and offerings across every shopper’s touchpoint
- A compelling brand story that makes it distinct from others
- Driving the differentiation through hyper-personalization
- Expectations to be active online and ready to interact at any hour
Developing Business Model That Can Help Retailers Build Resilience
1. The store should be “always-on”- a 24/7 shopping experience
Today, consumers are connected via various digital devices including smartphones, tablets, work PCs, and TVs. Meaning if the consumer is always-on then the brand should also be omnipresent and always-on. It should be more than just open stores and an operational website.
The 24/7 service mentality by consumers means the retailers should be:
- Open for engagement every time
- Be interactive on social channels, emails, online shopping eCommerce websites and app solutions along with in-store visits.
Do you know the adverse effect of lacking out or not having a presence on any of these channels? Here are the results:
Exhibit showing what customers do if they find their favorite retailer with their local store closed down
Source: PwC Global Total Retail Survey
Business Model Implication: Forget Online and Offline, It’s Integrated and Unified Store Experience
The larger lesson is, for a retailer to succeed-has to think beyond brick-and-mortar stores. The retailer has to have an integrated experience by being omnipresent and apply anytime, anywhere shopping experience comes to life.
This omnipresent or integrated experience includes the retailer must:
- Curate a single brand experience at every shoppers’ touchpoint- including physical stores and digital channels.
- Integrate and be equipped with the latest technologies including eCommerce apps and websites that predict customer shopping behavior and purchasing habits.
- Hire, train and develop skill sets that redefine the entire work culture and brand experience.
- Be active on all digital channels for two-way engagement
- Create an agile culture of innovation and responsiveness that helps them execute processes strategically throughout the entire organization.
- Create a compelling brand message that gives customers a distinctive brand experience
Given these advances, the result will be a complete fortune.
Related Reading: How to Harmonize Omnichannel Marketing for Retail Growth?
2. Real-time insight into product availability at individual stores
Consumers want the ability to find products on their own as they find their dependency on staff cheesy and mood-breaking.
Consumers want to transparently view on their own the retailer’s inventory- the available stock. These in-store technologies make the shopping experience even more enhanced.
And the reason is quite obvious. Take, for instance, a consumer will never want someone else to pick an item from the store which they found “out of stock”. The customer will get aggravated and unhappy if it happens with them.
Eventually, concluding the importance of inventory transparency over other types of in-store technology.
Let’s see the reaction of customers on the in-store technologies that make their shopping experiences better.
Exhibit showing in-store technologies that make customers’ shopping experiences better.
Source: PwC Global Total Retail Survey
Business Model Implication: Agility in the Back Office
A retail experience is not always about front-end technology and on-the-shelves shopping experience talking real-time offers, discounts and coupons, and payment transactions. It is a lot more about back-end technology and back offices, which now more than ever has to move with the speed of customers.
For retailers, it will mean a technology upgrade in inventory management software that manages everything in real-time from purchasing, shipping, and order management to product tracking, trail auditing to multichannel sales management.
Given these advances, a retailer can meet and fulfill its customer expectation by quickly checking the latest physical store and online stock levels which could further lead to faster decision-making for a customer across the whole supply chain.
3. Consistent prices and offerings across every shoppers’ touchpoint
Shoppers want consistency. They want personalization. And their expectations become even high when it comes to online-to-offline (O2O) shopping experience.
In fact, according to the survey, they're more likely to expect consistent level of service across physical and digital channels compared with automated customer service support (48%), personalized experiences (39%), or even same-day deliveries (25%).
Business Model Implication: Provide a Consistent, Cross Channel Experience across Touchpoints and Sales Channel
Shoppers interact with retailers across multiple touchpoints. Shoppers expect a consistent, branded experience at every touchpoint. Retail organizations must flawlessly work across their traditional silos structure and deliver a consistent experience no matter if it is a store with small footprints or a store in high traffic areas.
Additionally, the retailers can further add more value to their branded boutiques and online stores by reinforcing value of the relationship. They can deepen customer relations by enabling technologies that enhance associate-to-customer interactions, identifies training opportunities, and develops best practice to engage shoppers through two-way dialogue.
4. A compelling brand story that makes it distinct from others
In our previous post, we have talked about the importance of emotional branding or say connecting emotionally to customers to increase customer engagement.
Clearly, if we sum up consumer motivation comes through brand passion, self-brand connection, and brand affection. To achieve a long-standing brand–consumer relationship, brands have to acknowledge that consumers look for a brand that provides a unique and memorable experience.
Nowadays, customers buy products not only to fulfill their utility needs but also to attain certain emotional and sensational experiences.
Number of Retailers Used By Multichannel Shoppers in a Year
Exhibit showing number of retailers used by multichannel shoppers in a year
Source: PwC Global Total Retail Survey
Business Model Implication: Redefine Brand Communication, both Internally and Externally
Internally, retailers should start building the brand by bringing their unique brand identity not only on the storefront but inside the brands’ core function. By developing a consistent brand promise that instills and evokes the same emotion throughout the store and communication channels like emails, social media, eCommerce website, and mCommerce apps.
Such that every time the customer interacts with the brand the synergy gets resonated across all the touchpoints.
Externally, retailers have to engage with customers through social media channels. They can do this by running campaigns and competitions, hiring dedicated resources to respond to customer comments, and publishing other branded content that keeps audiences engaged.
Besides this, brands also need to have an online reputation management team for protecting the brand from any risks, negative publicity, or false remarks that could hamper the image of the brand.
5. Driving the differentiation through hyper-personalization
Shopping personalization based on shoppers’ preferences, activities and behavior are the basis of any happy and returning customer. Shoppers want retailers to offer more personalization based on their past shopping history. They want retailers to give them offers, digital coupons, and loyalty programs based on their past purchases.
Here are some mind-boggling stats emphasizing the power of personalization:
- 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences.
- 72% of consumers say they only engage with personalized messaging.
- 91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them.
- 66% of consumers say encountering content that isn’t personalized would stop them from making a purchase.
- 90% of consumers are willing to share personal behavioral data with companies to create a more a personalized experience.
Business Model Implication: Retailers Can Run Exclusive Online Social Media Campaigns
Retailers can raise the personalization bar at scale by giving innovative offerings to individual customers. Brands like Amazon, Grocers, Sephora, Nike have already tested the waters for the same and have received commendable results.
- Amazon Prime Wardrobe has recently launched a personal shopping service exclusively for Prime members.
- Sephora’s tiered loyalty program, Beauty Insider allows its highest level customers to access new products, free custom beauty services, entry to exclusive programs. This has helped them gain around 25 million members in their loyalty program.
- Nike offers a personalized loyalty program where members receive exclusive benefits and access to Nike Speed Shop.
6. Expectations to be active online and ready to interact at any hour
Customer service is the backbone of any business. It plays a vital role in building a long-term customer relationship and helping businesses thrive.
Nowadays, shoppers need 24X7 online customer support. They want brands to engage and interact with them whenever they need their assistance.
According to American Express, more than two-thirds of American consumers say they are even willing to spend more with brands that provide superior customer service.
Business Model Implication: Integrating Live Chat Can Help You Win the Race
Focus on what your customer values most- and this time it is superior customer service.
Redefine customer engagement and support. Find smarter ways to keep customers hooked and backed with the instant support system. This will help not only help you to increase your customer satisfaction rate but also improve your customer retention rate.
LIVE chat is one of the features that can help you to accomplish this never-ending milestone. With direct benefits like convenience, high ROI, increased sales, and maintaining long-term customer relationships LIVE chat can certainly help you win the customer support race.