While 96% of Americans shop online, 65% of their shopping budget is spent in the store. Those statistics tell you that you can’t afford to only focus on one channel when it comes to your retail marketing and sales strategy.
While there’s plenty to love about online shopping (browsing from the convenience of your couch, anyone?), there are plenty of reasons to expand how you connect with customers. It turns out, even in the store, shoppers are using multiple channels to connect with your brand and enhance their shopping experience. In an omnichannel world (where a shopper might use her phone, tablet, and laptop to decide she wants to shop with a brand), the in-store experience is more critical than ever.
Here are several reasons why what your customers experience in the store matters just as much as their online experience and can impact sales in both areas. The customer experience must be included in your business proposal.
#1. Customers Can Touch the Merchandise
While your shopper may have more options online, she can’t really get a sense of a product until she can hold it in her hands. This is especially true of clothing (66% of people prefer to buy it in person). Being able to try an article of clothing on can help a shopper know instantly if it fits and how it feels. If it doesn’t work, she doesn’t have to go through the return process.
Tip: If you sell clothing online and offline, set up a service that allows online shoppers to put clothes on hold in a local store so they can try it on before completing the transaction.
#2. Less is More
While in theory, we think having as many options as possible is a good thing, it can actually cause analysis paralysis. Too many options for a product category online can overwhelm a shopper and result in her not buying anything at all.
In a store, there will be a limited selection. And that’s a good thing! If a shopper has to only decide between a green, red, or blue sweater, she can make that decision faster.
Tip: It may be tempting to offer a wider variety of options in your retail store, but stay narrow and pay attention to what sells. You can always offer more sizes and selection online, or order for a customer when she’s in the store.
#3. The Offline Shopping Experience is Enhanced by the Online
While there will be some obvious differences between what a customer experiences shopping in-store versus online, there should be consistency. While the in-store experience offers more benefits and enhancements, it’s made all the richer because of the online experience.
For example: if you have a loyalty program, a shopper should easily be able to access account information both by logging onto your website as well as in the store. Either your cashier should be able to look up her information, or she should be able to use her mobile phone to access her digital loyalty profile.
Tip: Use a point-of-sale system that provides a consistent experience, both in-store and online, particularly one with robust loyalty program features.
#4. There’s No Shipping Delay
Instant gratification is another reason why people prefer to shop in-person. In fact, 34% of people cite “waiting for delivery” as what keeps them from shopping online. While 2-day shipping is fantastic, it can’t beat taking a product home as soon as you buy it.
Tip: Another way to link online and offline experiences is to offer online customers the option to pick up their orders in local stores the same day they make a purchase.
#5. The Customer Service is Better
While some shoppers are DIY and prefer to be left alone when buying something, others like that hand-holding that the in-store experience can provide, particularly for larger-dollar purchases like jewelry or electronics.
Nothing beats having a sales rep answering questions about a product a consumer is considering. And if the rep is trained well, he can be successful at upselling a customer on a more expensive product or adding more items to an order.
Tip: Invest in training your sales staff on how to provide the best customer service, going above and beyond customers’ expectations. Remember: it’s the little details that make the difference. Offering complimentary beverages, for example, can make a shopper’s experience all the more memorable.
#6. Returns are Easier
First of all, returns are less common when a shopper buys in the store simply because she has the opportunity to try it out, touch it, and see it up close. But many people are daunted at the prospect of emailing customer service online, printing a shipping label, and then hoping the returned package arrives intact. Because people hate returning online purchases, there are even services sprouting up that will take care of returns for you.
Tip: Online or off, make returns easy with no questions asked. Knowing that it’s simple to return an item may make more people shop with you.
Read more from Jay at fitsmallbusiness.com