The future of commerce is clear: it’s going online. Almost all of retail growth is in the e-commerce space, and for good reason; technology has put our ability to purchase directly in our hands, with our ability to make purchases using smartphones enabling a culture of purchasing goods and services anywhere, anytime.
Retailers need to be able to compete, but transitioning your business online isn’t always seamless, and there are certain things that you need to do differently in order to run an effective online business. Core to this transition is the ability to create an experience when customers shop online, whether that’s on their laptop or (increasingly) on their smartphone or tablet.
This goes for every aspect of your business, from your store layout to your ability to process credit card transactions seamlessly, a necessity for any business that wants to have an online presence. Customers expect more from you, and here’s how you deliver that experience to them.
Blend Your Online And Offline Experiences
The primary thing that differentiates digital and physical experiences is the loss of some of the personal feel of shopping in a store. When you’re online, you’re presented with largely the same store as every other person that goes to visit that store. While creating a great looking online shopping experience is important, businesses can go further by integrating their physical stores into their online store, and vice versa.
There are a few ways that you can about doing this, but for starters you need to make sure that your online offerings reflect what is available in store, or there is a clear label that delineates your in-store offerings versus your online-only products. As noted by Forrester, 71% of customers expect your online store to be an extension of your physical locations and want to be able to view in-store inventory, and 50% of customers expect in-store pickup as well. Integrating your two experiences will allow you to better translate your offline experience into an online storefront.
Create A High-Touch Experience Using Video
If your customers can’t get to your store, then you should still be able to deliver a high-value online experience, and that starts by giving your customers an offline experience when they’re on your website or in your app. Companies like BaubleBar are doing a great job of using video to connect with customers, and it’s easier than ever to integrate high definition video using services like Agora.io to reach your customers directly from within your app or website.
Providing face-to-face support to customers who shop online allows your customers to better engage with your employees and will create a more lasting connection with your brand as a result.
Combine Personal Service With A Product-Discovery
Product discovery sites like Birchbox do a great job of helping consumers deal with another problem caused by online shopping: product overload. Their platform, which is built on discovering the best products in the beauty and grooming space, creates an experience for customers that is tailored to their personal preferences.
This experience is highly sought after, particularly in the diluted beauty product industry, but ‘guided discovery’ is a service that you can use in your business as well by taking your product line and tailoring what products your customer sees by default to their needs. This will be greatly appreciated by customers and will also help clean up your website as well by limiting the products that can be seen by default.
Always Push Face-To-Face Service
A common misconception that many retailers have is that the online sales experience is completely impersonal and faceless. This leads to many websites offering subpar customer experiences online, but that’s also a benefit to you, as it opens the door for better competition online. Pushing the face-to-face customer experience at every turn by using video will give your customers the experience of going into a store with the convenience of shopping from whatever device they are on.
The retail game is going online, and for your business to succeed long term, you need to continue to remain relevant by improving your online experience as a result. Your ability to connect with customers on their terms will be a key factor in remaining relevant, and creating an experience that rivals or exceeds the one that your customers can get in your store (or at a competitors’) will make your brand that much more compelling.
What are you doing to address the customer experience question today? Let us know what you’ve learned in the comments.