In-store vs online: creating a single retail customer experience

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Is your e-commerce site disconnected from your brick and mortar locations? If so, you’re not alone: Nearly 50% of brands say unifying online and in-store operations and data will be their biggest challenge over the next year.

Customers don’t see your online and in-store experiences as separate; it is all one unified brand experience. Your online experience should have the same level of information, product selection, and customer service as your store. And the two should connect to give customers one seamless brand experience, rather than two distinct interactions.

Here’s a closer look at why creating a single retail customer experience matters, and some key areas to focus on to replicate your in-store experience online.

Why creating a single retail customer experience matters

You can no longer separate online and in-store customers — they are often one and the same:

  • A survey of 46,000 shoppers found that only 7% shop exclusively online, while 73% move across multiple channels.
  • 83% of U.S. shoppers who visited a store in the last week say they used online search before going into a store.
  • 56% of in-store shoppers used their smartphones to shop or research items while they were in a store in the past week.
  • 54% of consumers say that over the next year, they’re likely to look at a product online and buy it in-store. (This goes both ways: 53% of shoppers are likely to look at a product in-store and buy it online.)
  • 80% of consumers are less likely to visit a store if its website does not provide current product availability.

Multi-channel marketing is no longer enough. Retailers need an effective omnichannel strategy to meet customer expectations and provide a cohesive experience. Those who don’t risk losing the 73% of omnichannel shoppers who’ll be quick to give their business and loyalty to a competitor who better meets their needs.

How to replicate your in-store experience online for a true omnichannel experience

Provide a personalized online retail customer experience

One of the biggest advantages of shopping in-store is having a sales associate’s assistance. One-on-one sales support adds a lot of value to a customer and can give them confidence in their purchase decisions while also leading to higher sales and stronger loyalty.

The good news is that with today’s technology, you can offer a personalized online retail customer experience that mirrors your in-store service.

Personalized digital offers and recommendations can engage customers based on their interests and behavior. This tailored experience can make all the difference — 91% of consumers say they’re more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them.

If you’re not leveraging customer data and insights to provide a personalized experience in terms of what to market to them, how to market to them, and what to charge … you risk disappointing or even losing customers and leaving money on the table.

Allow customers to try out the products

A quantitative study of over 11,000 consumers found that 72% of Americans mentioned the ability to “touch, feel, and try products” as a top reason to shop in-store.

So why not give your customers the same advantage online?

Here are some ways retailers are allowing their omnichannel customers to “try before they buy”:

  • Free trials and/or free and easy returns
  • Pay later models, where customers only pay once they’re sure they’re keeping the item(s)
  • Virtual technology that allows customers to visualize products in their environments (for example, virtual eyeglasses try-ons or virtual furniture placement in their own home)

Offering free and easy returns is one of the most important things a retailer can do in terms of loyalty. An analysis of 2.8 million shoppers concluded that a strong return policy was the No. 1 decision-making factor in many retail categories.

Customers are getting more savvy. They want the same benefits of physical shopping when they’re browsing your virtual aisles online. And thanks to today’s technology, they can have them.

Encourage customers to browse the aisles online

The same qualitative study mentioned previously found that nearly half of shoppers listed the ability to “browse and discover new things” as a top reason to shop in-store.

Helping customers discover new things isn’t only good for CX — it increases purchase value. And with the technology available to online retailers today, you can assist with discovery in ways that are even more effective than your in-store experience. In fact, 54% of impulse purchases happen online.

Implement technology that allows you to promote items that are likely to appeal to your customer. They are on your website to shop — make it the best experience possible and help them find exactly what they need/want … even if they didn’t know it existed.

Leverage conversational commerce up-level your customer service

Another advantage of the in-store experience is face-to-face customer service. In retail, effective customer service is essential, and customers are willing to pay more for it.

Connected customer service used to be challenging to replicate online. Online chat and emails can be helpful, but it doesn’t replace face-to-face communication. There’s a human connection gap that’s making many digital customer experiences fall short.

Fortunately with Guided CX technology like cobrowse and live video engagement, you can create real human-to-human bonds from screen-to-screen.

Using visual engagement (video, screen-sharing, co-browsing) boosts CSAT by 15%, revenue by 16.5%, agent efficiency by 15.1%, and reduces cost by 7.8%. It offers the convenience of online shopping with the clarity and connection that can occur in-person. In essence, it’s the best of both worlds, which is why it has such a substantial impact.

Download the free infographic: The Value of CX Metrics

Retail CX: Download your guide

Are you ready to go beyond UX to provide actual customer service?

Download your free copy of our retail CX ebook for more insights, trends, and tips to help you create a single (and powerful) retail customer experience.

Download the retail CX guide here.

And if you’re ready to explore how Glance Guided CX solutions can help you meet your customers wherever they are in their journey, book a demo today.

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