Online and mobile channels have created extremely connected consumers. Consumers now demand more from retailers who want to earn and keep their loyalty, no matter the channel or touch point. They want convenience, flexibility and assurance, all at a good price. They have a wealth of information at their fingertips and can easily research their purchases for availability and price. This research could drive them online or in to a store. The omnichannel touch points—in-store, online, mobile, phone, mobile apps—need to be seamless and built around their needs.
The brick-and-mortar store is still a critical part of the omnichannel mix. Consumers love to see, touch and feel the products they are buying. According to PwC’s Annual Global Total Retail Consumer Survey, the physical store remains the primary retail touch point for consumers: 70% of shoppers surveyed purchased in-store once a month vs. just 54% purchasing online in that same time frame.
Nonetheless, there is an erosion of foot traffic at the retail stores. The good news is, there are things you can do about that.
1. In-store Wi-Fi
More and more customers expect Wi-Fi during their in-store visits to enhance their shopping experience. Giving them access to free Wi-Fi does not drive them to purchase online, but it strengthens their connection to the store. Most customers are visiting websites for additional product information and reviews. Twenty-eight percent of retailers report increased customer loyalty due to in-store Wi-Fi service (Study by EarthLink Holding Corp., AirTight Networks and IHL Group study).
2. Inventory visibility and in-store pickup
Best Buy, Lowe’s, Toys“R”Us, and Target are a few of the retailers that provide in-store inventory information online. Customers are more likely to visit a store if they know the inventory is available (71% of consumers find the ability to view in-store inventory very important or important, according to “Customer Desires vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omni-Channel Commerce Gap,” conducted by Forrester Consulting). The cross-channel experience needs to be seamless. When the customer gets to the store, they expect the product to be there.
Connected very closely to providing in-store inventory information is allowing in-store merchandise pickup. Only a third of retailers offer this service, even though half of all consumers surveyed noted in-store pickup as an important feature for shopping online. (Forrester Consulting, “Customer Desires vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding the Omni-Channel Commerce Gap”).
In-store pickup is preferred by customers who want to avoid online shipping costs (47% of customers) or who prefer to receive the product the same day it’s purchased (25% of customers).
3. Shipping options
The great shipping war has been waging for a while. Consumers expect low or free shipping as retailers fight for their business. Amazon started the battle with free shipping on orders over $25 (now $35). Target offers free shipping for orders over $25 (or free with a REDcard) to better compete with Amazon.
Today, some retailers are upping the ante with same-day shipping (Amazon and Google). Even Ace Hardware is getting into the mix. They have tested Ace Express Delivery in 33 markets. Customers can purchase an item and have it delivered for $5 if they are within five miles of the store (61% of their customers take advantage of this offer). Another option that is gaining traction: shipping from the store. The quicker delivery time for the consumer means reduced store markdowns and shipping costs.
4. Mobile wallets
The question is no longer, do I swipe or dip—it is, can I tap? Contactless chip cards are the next generation of payment. The cards are embedded with a chip for card readers, plus there’s a thin antenna wire around the edge of the cards that allow them to communicate with a contactless card reader’s radio frequency interface. This tap-and-go practice is common in Canada, and, according to ABI Research, usage is going to skyrocket from 25.5 million in 2015 to 405 million in 2021. (“Contactless cards set to flood US”—CreditCards.com)
The contactless card makes sense, because customers want speed and convenience. It is particularly useful for low-value, fast transactions under $30. It is touch and go.
5. Improving the in-store experience
How do you get in front of showrooming? Stores can assist customers through their journey by providing in-store kiosks and digital signage that allow them to find and compare products, see product demonstrations, make payments, check inventory, and order out-of-stock items and have them shipped to their home.
Sephora is all about delivering an outstanding customer experience. Customers can now watch video tutorials, take a video class with a Sephora team member at their San Francisco store or share content through stations called “Beauty Workshops.”
Smart retailers realize the importance of the physical location. L.L. Bean is planning to double their store presence by 2020. They know how important it is to allow their customers to engage with the brand before they buy. Even Amazon and Google are adding the in-store experience to create a truly omnichannel model.
6. Empowering the employee
You cannot create a great customer experience without the help of your store associates. If they are armed with the right technology, they can increase in-store customer satisfaction and sales. About 33% of consumers say that store associates provide a better shopping experience when they are equipped with the latest mobile technologies (Deloitte’s 2014 Annual Holiday Survey: “Making a List, Clicking It Twice”—Deloitte University Press, October 28, 2014).
Customers now expect store associates to be able to use mobile devices to look up product information and inventory. Consumers use their devices in many stores, so why shouldn’t your associates be able to do it? Give your associates the ability to match online prices to close the sale. Give them the ability to have an out-of-stock item shipped to the home for free (45% of consumers are very likely to take them up on the offer). The more empowered your employees are, the higher the customer satisfaction and the more loyal your customers will become.
The retail industry is in a constant state of change as technology and physical locations collide. The brick-and-mortar stores that not only survive, but thrive, will be the ones that embrace the possibilities and create an engaging, seamless experience for their customers. Retailers must become omnichannel experts to survive in today’s world. You can no longer view your channels as separate—to your customers, they are one and the same. Use the above strategies and tactics to help convert showrooming to webrooming, and become the preferred shopping channel for your current and prospective customers.
Chris DiMuro | Account Director
Chris is an account director at Catalyst specializing in data-driven solutions, including campaign development, analytics and database development. She holds a BS in marketing from RIT. In her past life she worked at Eastman Kodak Company and JCPenney.