In the current scheme of things, the brick and mortar retailers versus e-commerce giants war sounds much like the David Vs. Goliath story. And onlookers are eagerly waiting to see if David can fire the slingshot!
Just as it was in the story, a lot of people believe that it’s impossible for brick-and-mortar stores (David) to beat online retailers (Goliath). In this post, we look at the possibilities and what could be the ‘slingshot’ that helps physical retailers defeat e-commerce giants.
One of the most significant factors that could influence this fight is ‘customer service’. Research shows that exceptional customer service is the number one factor influencing how much a consumer trusts a company. Also, according to a recent report from American Express, three out of four (74%) consumers say they have spent more with a company because of a history of positive customer service experiences.
So how can offline retailers go beyond customer service strategies, to defeat their online competitors? Let’s discuss some of these ideas in this blog post:
1. Use ‘social’ to your advantage
We all know how important social media is in today’s world. By analyzing social media reviews, retailers can tap into customer sentiment and use that insight, also called “social intelligence,” to optimize their in-store customer experience.
Social media also provides a platform for retailers to interact with consumers and respond to feedback, which can significantly improve brand perception and even reverse negative impressions.
According to a recent newBrandAnalytics study, a 10% increase in connection with online reviewers results in a 23% increase in loyalty. Also, getting in touch with reviewers and resolving issues can help reduce attrition: 34% of people delete their original review if retailers respond quickly.
With reports claiming that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, getting your social brand image right is of upteem importance.
A great example of a brand doing it right is Alex and Ani. One look at the brand’s twitter page and you will know how engaged the brand is with its customers and how well customers reciprocate to the brand’s tweets.
Here are a few tweets from their page:
2. Offer the online buying experience in-store
One mistake most retailers make is that they treat online and in-store shopping as mutually exclusive activities. A good way to bridge this gap is to provide real-time customer reviews and ratings at kiosks or via mobile apps and help customers make informed purchasing decisions while they are in-store.
Showrooming is a reality that cannot be ignored. The sooner stores start using it to their advantage, the better they will be able to convert showroomers to customers.
Best Buy, for example incorporates social reviews into their in-store product labeling, displaying average star rating of the product along with a QR code to read more online reviews. This is a great way to educate customers while they are still in-store.
3. Focus on service, sales will follow
Customers today do a lot of research on products before making a purchase. While that helps them zero down on the brands they would like to buy products from, expert advice in store can help them cut through the noise (overload of information available online, not necessarily consistent at all places) and confusion much faster.
Training floor staff to be experts in the merchandise, giving them the technology to have ready access to social media and online reviews, and empowering them to share their deep product knowledge without always pushing for an immediate sale – can cut the deal. This relieves the burden on customers and ensures they are always getting the most accurate information about products, warranties and more without feeling that they are constantly targeted for an upsell.
Waitrose, for example, is using beacons at its concept store in Swindon, in a very different way.
The retailer’s app allows customers to scan a product’s bar code to find out more information and reviews as well as call for assistance. If a customer chooses to do so, members of the staff receive the request on an iPad informing them that a customer is waiting for help. The location of the customer is relayed with the help of iBeacon technology.
The staff member also receives information about the customer and his/her previous shopping history. Relaying such important information about the customer to sales associates helps them get a better idea on how they should approach the customer.
4. Personalize the customer shopping experience like never before
Retailers can use new technologies, such as beacons to target customers with truly personalized offers by syncing customers’ shopping lists, wishlists and favourites with their app.
Waitrose’s latest scheme that allows shoppers to pick their own offers, is a great example of this. With this “game-changing” personalised marketing initiative, myWaitrose loyalty cardholders can select 10 products that they would like to save 20% on. Customers can hand-pick their 10 products from a list of 1,000 own-label and branded goods, which includes staple basket items including fruit, vegetables, bacon and eggs, alongside more “special” treats.
5. Provide ‘add-on’ services
Services such as “click-and-collect” that enable customers to pay online and collect their purchases are a huge hit among shoppers.
Offering services such as indicating product availability, so that customers with items in an online shopping cart can also locate those items in various departments as they enter a store, make the promise of an omni-channel retail experience closer to reality.
Nordstrom, offers services such as ‘show nearby item availability’ in its e-commerce store and allows customers to pick those items up in-store. The department store recently began testing ‘curbside pickup’, where online shoppers can fetch items they’ve purchased online by texting or calling customer service as they arrive at the store’s door.
By offering added convenience that blends modern technology with the convenience of traditional shopping, brick and mortar shops can capitalize on the digital customer’s need for instant gratification – to great success.
Thus, brick-and-mortar businesses will thrive to the extent they can understand and engage with customers and make their shopping experience simpler and more enjoyable.
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