While the consumer retail experience appears to be leaning increasingly more to the digital side, 73% of consumers like to research online and buy in store. Contrarily, former “online-only” brands such as Amazon, Fabletics and Missguided (to name a few) are investing more in brick-and-mortar to create a holistic balance of benefits between their digital and physical presence.
So if retail brands are working on balancing out their approach, why do we continually see well-known, long-standing brands closing down?
It’s not that big chain retail is dying, and it’s not just one thing that contributes to it. Rather, the store closures we’re seeing are a result of brands that lack the innovation and relevancy that draw in and retain customers. The key is to create a seamless digital-to-physical customer journey that starts when, how and where the consumer chooses to begin that journey. By enhancing the overall customer experience, subsequent business outcomes, such as customer retention and loyalty, will naturally follow.
Here are three actionable strategies that retail brands of all sizes and industries should consider to get customers back in-store and filling their online shopping carts.
Bridge The Gap Between Online And In-Store Experiences
Imagine shopping online and storing items in your cart that you simply can’t bring yourself to purchase because you need to see and feel the product before “taking the plunge” — free shipping and returns be damned! It’s a relatable scenario for many consumers — myself included. In fact, 87% of modern consumers want to see and experience a product prior to purchase.
Brands need to consider this — and how they orchestrate every moment — to make it simple and efficient. Start a consumer’s journey where and how they prefer, supercharging every touch point with invitational offers that drive better engagement (and business outcomes). Actions retailers can take include having the technological ability to monitor a customer’s online shopping journey, and send notifications that a product in their online shopping cart is in stock at a store near them
Adding that layer of technology empowers you — the brand — to pinpoint how and when each individual customer prefers to begin engaging. In turn, customers receive the response they expect, and also can create additional opportunities for a surprise and delight — remember the importance of innovation and relevancy.
Events And In-Store Courses
Events are an underutilized and powerful opportunity for retailers to bring consumers together and allow them to spend dedicated time with well-educated employees. You might be wondering how much an event could help drive foot traffic — research shows that 60% of modern consumers are interested in attending in-store events and product demonstrations, but only 23% have been invited.
As a retailer, you’re missing out on the opportunity to bring consumers to the store and increase revenues if you’re not considering events or in-store courses. This misstep between the digital and physical interaction is known as the “failure zone.” Consumers who engage in face-to-face interactions in-store often increase their online basket sizes more than 3X based on that experience. Whether it’s through exclusive VIP events for product launches, product education courses or guest speakers, retailers should use the physical store to improve brand awareness, customer satisfaction and even sales conversion rates.
For example, luxury brand Chanel mastered a product launch experience by enticing customers to their pop-up store in one of London’s most luxurious shopping centers. By offering customers the ability to test the new scent, learn about the inspiration behind the fragrance and book workshops ahead of time, Chanel was able to increase awareness and buzz around one single product launch.
Booking Appointments For Concierge-Like Engagement
Because consumers still value the ability to see the whites of someone’s eyes via face-to-face interactions and have a desire to connect with well-trained, knowledgeable staff, retailers should use in-store technology such as appointment bookings and personal shoppers to provide this level of convenience and personal touch for consumers.
Retailers have a big leg up on digital-only stores when it comes to the human interaction, which is where personal shopping by appointment can come into play. Debenhams, one of the world’s top international department stores, has had great success with this. They increased in-store visitors by rolling out an omnichannel appointment system that allows customers to book personal shopper sessions. By offering a variety of different sessions, such as appointments for groups or gift giving for loved ones, the retailer has been able to increase appointment booking by nearly 25%. In addition, appointment booking tools can improve staff utilization, allowing employees to focus on driving meaningful interactions with customers, resulting in increased revenue and improvement in overall employee well-being over time.
Retailers — large and small — cannot afford to neglect an in-store strategy, given the battle for market share in today’s retail landscape. A true, 360-degree customer view enables continuous measurement and optimization that accurately predicts consumer behavior, as well as tracks revenue and business outcomes across all channels. Ditch the idea that the only way to get consumers in the store is through incentivization and discounts — it’s not. While consumers are enthralled with digital, they still crave the brick-and-mortar experience at some points of their path to purchase. Retailers must learn to bridge the digital and physical divide in order to ascend from the “failure zone,” exceed the expectations of today’s modern consumer, and provide an omnichannel experience that cultivates high brand value and loyalty.
Before starting at BookingBug, Glenn Shoosmith worked as a developer, consultant, team and project manager in various industries. During this time, he wrote trading systems for some of the world’s largest banks, including Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. In 2008 he founded BookingBug with the ambitious objective of building a platform where time could be treated as if it were a stock inventory item. BookingBug has since grown to become the market-leading multichannel appointment booking platform.