In the U.S. today, the web influences slightly more than 50% of all the retail purchases made. That number is expected to rise to 60% in the next two years. This digital revolution has brought about a commerce revolution and traditional brick and mortar stores must evolve with the changes in order to stay afloat. The ways in which consumers shop are changing and in order to compete, retailers must create a seamless experience between their online and physical stores. While this may be a challenge, it also offers huge opportunities for increased sales due to the many available channels through which customers can be reached. The very channels that allow multi- channel commerce ( or Omni-channel commerce as it is often called), and present these opportunities, also create a new set of challenges for the retailer.
Consumer expectation is higher than ever. Particularly when it comes to millennials, they want instant gratification in both advertising as well as the shopping experience. In a fast paced, digital society, time is of the essence to the consumer. They want to be able to purchase what they want, when they want it, and on any type of device.
Changes in Technology
There are a huge number of apps being developed for online shopping, but it seems that keeping up with them is nearly impossible. What's shiny and new today may be obsolete by tomorrow. Finding technology that works well for your business is imperative to success.
While having an online presence means that you reach more potential customers, it also means that you are experiencing an entirely new field of competition. Globalization is a reality and distinguishing yourself from the competition is a must. You are now competing not only with the shop down the street, but with those around the globe.
Retailers must take all of these things into consideration when creating a seamless shopping experience. They must also play on the advantages of their physical stores. What can customers get from a physical store that they can’t get online? Superior, one on one, customer service. Combining the online browsing experience with the customer service available in a physical store is one of the most important things a retailer can do. It’s gratifying to a consumer to know that the pair of boots that they just viewed online is at a store just a few miles away. In that way, your online presence can boost sales tremendously. While it is nearly impossible for every store to stock all of the items that are available online, knowing which products are most popular and making them available in your stores is the perfect place to start.
In addition, your online and physical stores should have a similar look and feel. Creating these consistencies between your physical spaces and your online channels is very important. To consumers, your brand is viewed as a whole and it should be presented that way. Your store’s visuals should be updated as frequently as your other channels in order to produce a cohesive shopping experience between online and brick and mortar stores.
Use your online channels to further personalize the customer service in your physical stores. It is inherent to humans to want a personal experience that is completely tailored to the individual. Online stores access customer records, including browsing and purchase history. With this information, they know the likes, wants, and needs, of the customer and can personalize that customer’s interactions based on those criteria. The site uses shopping and browsing history to provide recommendations that are tailor made to each customer.
The logical step is for retailers to use that data that already exists online to bring that personalized experience that customers get online, into their stores. The key is using technology that enables you to identify customers who shop in your store. This can be done by using a customer’s email address, a loyalty card number, or even a telephone number, allowing you to access not only the purchases made in physical stores, but online as well. In order to do this however, sales associates must be given the technology to enable them to access customer data easily. This, in turn, personalizes the shopping experience even further and allows associates to make reference to it and even suggest things that the customer might be interested in. For example, with purchase history data, an associate might suggest a pair of shoes that would complement a recently purchased outfit or handbag.
The digital age has brought about many changes to retailers, but if you adapt with the changes, your business will thrive as it never has before. Taking all of the information available about your customers allows you to put them at the center of your business and give them the seamless, personalized shopping experience that they are looking for.
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