Walking into a store, browsing your favorite section, chatting with the store assistant about new products in the market, and picking up that mint on the way out at the checkout counter happened to be the norm when people said 'grocery shopping' not more than a few years ago. As the awareness of online shopping grew, some people shifted to experience convenience while some preferred the physical touch and instant gratification of the brick and mortar stores. While COVID 19 rocked the world, the importance and need for online shopping grew manifold. Consumers and brands opted to go digital, leading to an increase in the share of ecommerce in global retail trade from 14% in 2019 to about 17% in 2020. Ecommerce brands now need to build a strategy to stay relevant even post-pandemic. As consumers learn and adopt the digital lifestyle, it becomes necessary for brands to ease this transition as much as possible in order to retain customers. As the traditional consumer group joins the digital audience, reducing the difference in customer experience across an online and physical channel is your best bet. Here are a few tips to help you replicate in-store customer experience online:
Customers expect to be greeted by store employees as they enter the store. This greeting is often a personalized conversation that the store employee has based on the customer's frequency of visit, requirement, budget, and so on. This can be replicated online by personalizing the customers' experience based on geography, behavior, purchase history, visit frequency, likes, dislikes and more. Segmenting customers and targeting them with custom messages and suggestions would help equate an in-store experience where the sales executive guides your buying decision. These buyer personas also help group customers and take decisions based on buying behavior patterns.
While many experiences, such as feeling the product on the spot before buying, are difficult to replicate in an online store, there are a ton of experiences that now have digital solutions. Let's take an example of a psychologist's clinic. While customers had the option to call the clinic for appointments or accept walk-in appointments, digitizing the experience would be highly convenient. Ensure that the customer has the option to choose their preferred professional, date, time along with all the details necessary for the appointment. Appointo, the automated appointment booking application integrate seamlessly with your Shopify ecommerce platform to successfully manage appointment bookings. It allows you to build custom appointment capturing forms and throws light on your appointment schedule. This helps brands collect bookings in the most efficient manner while bringing a host of benefits to the customer who self-serves as per their preferences.
- Ease of navigation
Local retail store outlet layouts were memorized by heart by the consumers, making it easier for them to head directly in the direction of the product you wish to purchase. This helped the consumer save time and gave them a sense of familiarity with the brand. Replicate this feeling online by easing site navigation and aiding product discovery. Whether you introduce chats, customer assisting bots, persons, or automated algorithms, customers must find help right away while also be able to browse through the collection at lightning speed. AI-enabled technology that helps showcase personalized suggestions based on customer order history and browsing is another solution that can help customers identify and purchase with ease.
- Try and buy
One of the most important advantages of a physical store is the ability to try before buying. Usually, this applies to clothing, but cosmetics, perfumes, accessories, etc. also require trials and samples for customers to make a purchase decision. Enable customers trial periods, samples, easy returns, and more to make this possible. While instant trial and purchase is a difficult concept to replicate in online shopping, it is definitely possible to offer at home trials, virtual trials, easy 30-day returns, etc. Many major brands across the globe offer this convenience to their customers.
- Online and offline
While the channels differ in characteristics and aesthetic, both aim to please the customer and improve sales. With this in mind, many brands have tried to integrate customer experience across both channels for a seamless switch. For service providers such as pet grooming stores or pathology laboratories, this is a must. Customers can browse online and gather more information regarding the service via website and reviews, but it is impossible for them to assess any particular service provider. Integrating this customer experience of browsing the website, booking an appointment to arriving for the service, conversing with the service provider, and partaking in the service delivery is a must. Offer easy browsing, details of the service, appointment booking option through applications such as Appointo, directions to the store, reminders and notifications to prep for the service delivery before the customer arrives.
- Customer relationship
Every physical store employee builds a strong customer relationship, specially with repeat customers. This relationship builds a belief among customers that the store employee is aware of their preferences and it would be a hassle free trip to the store if they repeated the purchase at the establishment. Simply speaking, the customer enjoyed and favored the relationship that the store employees shared with them. In an ecommerce store, this can only be achieved through personalization and customer relationship management tools. From analyzing the customer behavior for customizing their website experience to enabling sales personnel with customer history and information at the tip of their fingers in order to ease customer purchase, building customer relationships is a must for all brands to stay ahead of the competition.
Lastly, customers cannot lose the one aspect of online shopping that gives brands the advantage to shift - convenience. In-store shopping over the years has tried tele-shopping, home deliveries and what not to replicate this feature. Ecommerce brands now must ensure that the consumer experiences convenience in all aspects, whether it's the ease of access across websites and applications for on-the-go accessibility or the ease of returns and exchanges from the comfort of their homes.
Buckle up and replicate these in-store customer experiences across your ecommerce and app stores to stay ahead of the curve. As the industry sees a surge, prepare for a rise in demand and competition for ecommerce across the globe.