How To Merge the Online and Offline Shopping Experience

The separation of brick and mortar and eCommerce shopping is making customers decide whether to purchase on or offline. Over the past few years, retail has gone through an immense and intriguing transformation, with traditional brick and mortar stores needing to seamlessly integrate with their online store. With enormous online businesses rapidly taking off, how can traditional retail integrate with an online platform to provide a seamless shopping experience for the customer whilst still keeping the same brand image?

Even with the rapid rise of eCommerce, it doesn’t mean this is the end of of life for brick and mortar. This transformation provides an incredible opportunity for retailers, but the hurdle to overcome is to be able to connect the online and offline shopping experience seamlessly, allowing for a truly omni-channel, and strong brand experience.

1. Adapt Your Strategy

Marketers and retailers need to be flexible and willing to adapt their marketing strategies at any point in order to keep up with ever-changing shopping trends. For example, mobile targeting is rife, retailers should be optimising their digital marketing campaigns to drive in store campaigns online and to inform customers of deals, events or promotions.

Retailers should also be segmenting their marketing efforts. Different promotions and product launches are appealing to different audiences. Segment your audience and target them, i.e if you have a new product launch coming to store, target your VIP customers by offering them a private sale via email before it is available to the public.

2. Inventory Matters

When merging online and offline, inventory levels are make or break. If you have a product on offer and are promoting it with ads, make sure it is still available. If it is out of stock, make sure this is clear and let your customers know.

3. Promotions

No customer wants to make a purchase one day to find it in the sale less than one day later, particularly when it is the same brand. In store offers are great, but ensure that you keep your customers informed via the appropriate channels to allow them to get the best deal possible and stay loyal to your brand.

4. The Power of Mobile

The role of the mobile is becoming ever more important in the consumers retail journey, and the growth isn’t going to stop as we have evolved into an on the go population with increasingly new uses for mobile. Mobile not only allows for easy data collection and easy shopping, but it allows for location focused services, and if used properly, can be used to pull online and offline experiences together, connecting different brand interactions together in one device.

Following a study of over 1000 mobile users in the UK, it was found that over sixty five percent of users can see the use of mobile taking off to further improve the offline shopping experience (Mindshare Futures Retail Report).

For example, ‘Mobile, Pay, Go’ is a feature within the M&S iPhone app which enables customers to scan products as they go and then pay from their device using Apple Pay without requiring them to queue or go to a till.

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Therefore, using mobile to take the effort out of traditional shopping. Similarly, geo-targeting on mobile is a great way of highlighting local stores to the most relevant website visitors.

5. Improving The Customer Experience

As expectations of consumers constantly change, brands need to keep up to date with these changes in shopping behaviour. As these expectations evolve, retail is having to rapidly change with them. It is not enough to simply have a store and an eCommerce shop. Retailers need to work out how to create a strong atmosphere in store by providing fantastic customer service and creating exciting shopping experiences for the customer.

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The Nike Shanghai store allows customers next level in-store shoe customisation.

In a recent report by Mindshare, it was highlighted that 51% of consumers agreed that they are more likely to buy from brands which have interesting or different stores, whilst 60% of consumers say retail brands will have to keep up with new technology in order to improve their experiences.

Customer expectations and needs from brick and mortar stores are going to increase, so brands should try different methods to meet the demand. In store interactivity is on the increase and we can see from leading brands that it works. Make your store as interesting as possible and give people a reason to visit.

Examples of improving the overall customer shopping experience includes the likes of Nordstrom, who offer ‘Try Before You Buy’, allowing customers to order products to their doorstep so that they can try on a product before purchasing it.

6. Post Purchase Marketing

Whether your customer has just purchased an item or not, keep them interested. It could be a welcome email, or it could be loyalty or reward incentive or even an interesting product tutorial. Keeping customers excited and interested through their entire purchasing journey with the brand is the key to creating loyalty.

7. Rise of The Voice Assistants and Chatbots

Engage with your customers, it is easier than ever to interact with your audience by offering them chatbots and automated messaging, allowing you to interact 24/7 and provide a fantastic customer experience.

Everything needs to be as easy and simple as possible. Technology has helped brands to create shopping experiences that are simple and instant. Text and voice can now offer this when humans aren’t available 24/7.

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Rise of the voice assistants, these will remember users wants and needs, recommend products, allow a user to ask about a product online and go in store. Can help users by locating a product in store, receive product information, get suggestions for products, chatbots for staff to find information about products quicker.

Conclusion:

Moving forward, retailers need to make sure they are adding that in-store touch to make people want to come and in and buy, rather than just browse and purchase a product online.

A strong understanding of how your customer needs change throughout the shopping experience is important to be able to build a consistent brand experience whether in store or online. Dive into your data and look at how a seamless experience can be created for your customers.

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