Interconnecting Online, In-Store Channels Can Engage Customers And Fuel Sales

Posted by Pixafy Team

In the ecommerce world, discussions about omni-channel customer experiences often focus on unifying web, mobile and social strategies to create sales opportunities. However, the lines between the physical and digital world are intersecting in new ways, with retail at the center of this movement. Merchants who can create cohesive experiences across digital and physical channels can use their online tools to create more powerful experiences in stores, and vice versa. What’s more, a recent InMoment study found that consumers do tend to spend more in stores when they also browse online.

Online channels play a key role for in-store shoppers

According to a recent Internet Retailer report, the InMoment study indicated that people are shopping in new ways, particularly younger consumers, and are increasingly using their mobile devices to browse online stores while they shop, and they tend to purchase more when they do so. Consider the following findings:

  • Approximately 72 percent of respondents who said they browse while shopping in stores were aged 44 or younger.
  • In general, individuals who browse a store’s online collection while perusing within a physical location tend to spend approximately 2.2 times more than those who stick exclusively to the in-store experience.
  • The spending increases even extend to customers who browse competitor websites while they are in your store, with those individuals spending, on average, 20 percent more than consumers who don’t check out competitors’ products online while at one of your locations.
  • The advantages of consumers looking at competitor websites were found to be particularly noteworthy in the apparel sector.

This data may not point to a causation – it doesn’t tell us why in-store shoppers tend to spend more when they have the freedom to go online – but it does clearly demonstrate that extending the in-store shopping experience into the digital channel can contribute to profitability. A few reasons why this may be possible include:

  • Shoppers who go online when in the store can read product reviews, compare different options, figure out pricing and easily get the information they need to make the best decision when completing a purchase.
  • Consumers can gain transparency into how your products compare to the competition.
  • Individuals can identify products they like online, then find those items in the store to see what they are like in person.

Regardless of why your shoppers may want to get online while in your store, being able to do so does seem to pay off.

Creating shopping opportunities without boundaries

Retailers have a unique opportunity to drive sales by unifying their in-store and online experiences to create an optimal user experience. A recent TechWorld report highlighted a few ways that businesses can respond to this trend, and the common theme across the recommendations is to use technology to establish an optimal environment.

For example, the news source pointed out that retailers need to make sure their in-store experiences are as advanced as their online presence. People who shop online may have access to diverse payment options, personalized experiences, integration with social channels and freedom to shop at their own pace. Conversely, those in the store don’t just have a limited product set at their disposal, they also have to deal with lines, potentially restrictive payment options and a generic storefront that doesn’t respond to their specific needs. Some solutions recommended by the report included:

  • Offering mobile experiences that provide direct in-store promotions.
  • Use beacons and similar GPS-based tools to offer personalized displays for customers.
  • Provide a wide range of self-service options to create a smooth experience where users set their own pace.

Improving the in-store experience is only a starting point. TechWorld also pointed out that building online experience for users in the store, such as for sales associated, is an increasingly important option. The idea of the endless aisle – a shopping environment in which consumers can browse in-store or work directly with associates to complete online orders – is gaining momentum as digital and physical worlds blend together. A fully established endless aisle system will allow shoppers to hop online to look for products, look up details about shipping and product availability, work with associates to identify if nearby stores have a product in stock and take advantage of cross-channel promotions.

This type of functionality eliminates the barriers that exist within different retail channels by unifying them into a single platform. However, TechWorld also pointed out that this kind of functionality is only possible if retailers have a single view into customers and stocks. Data cannot be segregated between different systems based on channel, and must instead be integrated across every phase of your operations.

Establish a foundation for borderless shopping

Distinct channels are beginning to fade as consumers seamlessly shift between social, web, mobile and in-store channels and expect a cohesive journey while they do so. This creates an exciting opportunity for retailers to unify their brand into a large platform that serves as a central hub for all customer experiences. Three ways to begin moving in this direction are:

1. Integrate ERP data with the web platform
Enterprise resource planning systems often serve as primary hubs for company data, housing information regarding customers, vendors, suppliers, shipping and inventories. At the same time, many ecommerce platforms store key data regarding payments, customer details and transactions. Unifying the ERP with the web platform brings this data together, eliminating duplicate information and breaking down the barriers between different channels as they can all communicate with one another, providing end-to-end visibility.

2. Create cohesive customer journeys
Focusing on customer journeys, not just experiences, is critical. Automatically updating data between systems and giving personnel – from sales teams to your help desk – tools to access that information plays an essential role in ensuring users have a positive experience as they hop between different ways of interacting with you.

3. Take advantage of responsive design
Responsive design may seem simple enough – ensuring the site automatically adjusts to the screen size being used is key as mobile device use increases. But the less discussed benefit is that responsive design saves you time on developing and managing multiple versions of the site, freeing you to spend more time to align experiences across traditional channel boundaries.

Channels are breaking down as consumers shop without borders, and retailers that get ahead of this trend can drive revenue creation. Contact us today!