With the holiday season in full swing, there’s a Shakespearean-style choice that shoppers face: to shop in-store or online, that is the question? And the inner monologue, more often than not, probably goes a little something like this: I could head to the mall after work or go on Saturday morning – or avoid the crowds, stay in the comfort of my own home (and PJ’s), and embrace the click-to-cart lifestyle. Decisions, decisions.
To most, the choice may seem simple. But if it’s so simple, why are online only brands, like Amazon, opening brick-and-mortar locations and joining forces with physical retailers like Whole Foods and Sears? The reality is that the retail industry is a fiercely competitive one–and while eCommerce will always play a large role, brick-and-mortar shouldn’t be written off.
Meeting expectations across all touchpoints
Because demands of the modern consumer have made it easier to shop around for all kinds of products and services, online and physical retailers must put a big focus on exceeding customer expectations–across all channels. According to BRP Retail Consulting Firm’s 2018 Unified Commerce Survey, 73 percent of consumers want order tracking across all touchpoints, but only 42 percent of retailers offer the ability to track orders across channels. This discrepancy leads to problems in-store, as only 13 percent of retailers can identify customers when they enter their store.
This shortcoming clearly illustrates the shifts in consumer requirements for a frictionless experience as they move through every channel offered. What’s more, the moment they decide they need your help, you must show up–informed, knowing who they are, and what they need.
Personal Interactions: Not if, but When
While the focus for retailers in 2018 has been on getting consumers “in the door”–virtually speaking–they have thus under invested in the times consumers want to engage in person. While a popular assumption, online shopping has never meant that people don’t want or need to connect with other people–rather, it’s simply a stop along the way over the course of the entire purchasing path. At one point or another, consumers will walk into your physical store, or call to speak with someone, and retailers – are you listening? – You must. Be. Ready.
There is no longer a hope but an expectation to greet consumers, armed with background on what they are looking for, answers to the questions they have already asked, and in some cases even their previous purchase history in order to provide them the proper guidance they seek to take the next step in their journey. According to the Google Consumer Survey, People [Still] Need People, nearly 45 percent of respondents said that having the ability to speak with someone during their final decision to purchase was critical!
Data-management to track engagement preference
With the vast amount of channel options for consumers to utilize as they start their journey, it’s important for retailers to know, understand and remember those engagement preferences. Once channel preferences are understood, retailers should keep a record of that data (per customer), and use those points of origin to orchestrate every touchpoint thereafter–delivering deeply personalized experiences that not only add value to each specific customer, but create the tailored fluidity a modern customer journey needs vs. a catch-all “customer experience” intended to work for everyone – because it won’t.
Now that we know how important data-management is for creating personalized engagement strategies, a question most retailers may ask is: What’s really in it for us? Because let’s be honest, if some retailers aren’t struggling in sales, redefining the way they interact and connect with customers might be a hard sell to make.
Invest in your customers for ROI
Done correctly, unified and informed customer journeys move far beyond short-term sales and better position you for long-term loyalty and increased revenue over time. The aforementioned survey, People [Still] Need People also highlights that nearly 64% of respondents said they spend or invest more in products/services after a personal connection with the brand or face-to-face appointment.
This illustrates the value of a holistic engagement strategy to not only bring people in-store, but to drive a greater return on the investment for data-management and the value in really getting to know each individual customer.
There is a clear “science” for retailers to accurately engage with consumers, and by capturing the data, it empowers you to build a workforce that’s educated about what each customer wants and needs, thus empowering you, retailers, to deliver meaningful engagements with customers that will rise above competitors.