Customers are picky. The credo of retail customers has evolved into "I want it all and I want it now," to paraphrase the well-known Queen hit. And frequently, they don't care how they obtain it. They locate the things they need on your website and either buy them there, pick them up from your storefront, or do both—buying them both online and in person.
A certain level of business acumen is required, including the ability to bridge the online to offline (o2o) retail divide, to keep those customers happy and your inventory under control. Therefore, it is crucial to have a retail infrastructure that can handle both clicks and bricks.
Why do Consumers Prefer Online Shopping?
Consumers choose to shop online purely out of convenience. Without ever leaving their homes, they can shop whenever they want, research all of their options, compare costs, and have their order delivered to any place.
In conclusion, compared to traditional retail, online purchasing offers significantly more options. Even the largest stores with the broadest range of goods have a finite amount of inventory that will never be able to compete with the scale of online marketplaces - thousands to millions. When searching online, all you have to do is enter a few keywords and select your chosen filters.
Online stores can also charge less because there is no need to operate physical stores or pay rent, which reduces costs. Additionally, online stores employ a number of marketing strategies that takes into account what gets a customer’s attention, such as promotions, discounted prices, special deals, or loyalty rewards.
So what is it about offline shopping that still draws customers in?
Why Do Customers Prefer to Shop Offline?
The ability to see, touch, and try on items at a brick-and-mortar store is unmatched by any image or video (even with AR or VR extensions). Online purchases frequently result in returns; offline purchasing does not. In contrast to internet shopping, where you must wait for your purchase and cannot be certain that it is exactly what you wanted, this also means a larger satisfaction effect because customers instantly receive something they want and like.
Additionally, brick and mortar shoppers won't have to deal with onerous return postage if they change their minds and decide to return an item. All they have to do is visit a store to receive immediate financial recompense. For those who prefer in-person assistance and discussions before making a purchase, online shopping is also a viable choice. Or for those who view shopping as a social activity that they can enjoy with a companion or where they can converse with known store employees and delight in the fact that they recall their preferences.
How can your company bridge the online-to-offline divide while satisfying customers who want it all?
- Connect Those Dots
Retailers used to treat their websites and stores independently in terms of tracking sales and maintaining inventory back when e-commerce was still in its infancy, omnichannel wasn't yet a concept, and o2o was more likely to be on the periodic table of elements than a business plan. That's not the situation anymore. Brick-and-mortar shops today need to combine their online and physical presence to be competitive in the market because of the proliferation of e-tailers and the rise of Amazon.
In order to maintain a consistent brand and keep customers loyal, legacy retail organisations are concentrating on integrating their virtual and physical stores across all channels as online retailers like Nykaa and even Amazon try to open brick-and-mortar stores. According to the BRP Digital Commerce Survey, 57% of retail companies are concentrating on combining their in-person and online shopping experiences into a single, unified brand. However, it is still not ideal to connect online and offline data.
- Monitoring both online and offline
Tracking online customers has been very simple for years, but for the majority of businesses, knowing what in-store customers are doing and reaching out to them is still a relatively new concept. In the past, only historical sales transactions and loyalty programmes allowed retailers to monitor what their consumers were doing. All of that has changed.
According to a report by Salesforce called Shopper-First Retailing, 71% of consumers believe they are currently bridging the online and offline gap by conducting product research on their smartphones while they are in physical retail establishments.
Many businesses have also provided sales representatives with tools to ace customer service. Store employees can compare their rates to those of online competitors using mobile apps like Ez Ad. Additionally, it can offer product demonstration videos that are accessible through the store's online resources or retail platform from its digital library.
Other businesses, like Lowe's, offer consumer-facing items on their mobile apps that let users search for things using location-based information, compare products and prices, and more. Customers only need to use their camera to scan a product barcode and choose the functionality they desire. Businesses have enabled store associate checkout or self-checkout using mobile apps to assist in-store customers in avoiding checkout lineups.
- Employing customer journey
The customer journey is one of the factors that will decide success or failure in the rapidly expanding industry of retail. A quality omnichannel system will collect consumer information from all of your channels and combine it to offer each client a seamless, customised experience. It provides customers with numerous options for obtaining, purchasing, and receiving their products. Additionally, a salesperson working in your physical store can view the consumer's relationship with the brand and approach the customer holistically.
Access to the customer's profile, purchasing history, and other offline and online social data is made possible via the Omnichannel. This will make it easier for the personnel to completely comprehend the customer's interests and expectations. Gaining the trust and contentment of the customer can be significantly increased by being aware that they did some research before visiting the store. Making pertinent advice to them is one approach to improve their in-store experience and make their visit more pleasurable. For instance, a customer may have forgotten to remove things from their online shopping cart before visiting the business. The customer can finish their online order and try those things with the assistance of your employees. The staff can recommend products that are related to the customer's interests if they notice that they were conducting an internet search for the item. The customer may be reminded of any promotions or reward points that are still available in their account, allowing them to use them to buy even more goods.
- Returns across channels
Return and refund issues are an undesirable but inevitable part of running a business. Is it possible to save a sale if a customer did not like a product in your store? eCommerce enablement solutions like EasyEcom for example, lets sellers reconcile returns using the item's initiated return date and point of origin to enable a quick and easy return and refund process.
Consider this scenario: The item can be returned to a store by a customer who bought it online. Your sales staff can then update the item in the inventory system, ensuring that the inventory ledger is always accurate. The staff can also open the client's account and credit their card with a compensation in the form of bonus points or a later discount.
It is obvious that a good return system will benefit customers and businesses alike. A customer who is pleased with your return policy might visit your store again in the future. In addition to ensuring sales, Omnichannel also ensures customer loyalty to a company.
- Maximize Sales
Along with consumer loyalty, patience has also declined dramatically. The retail business has adopted a "right now" mentality as a result of the internet. Online buyers make judgments in less than 8 seconds, therefore retailers must remove as many barriers as possible from the purchasing experience if they want to fulfil that unusually short deadline.
In a retail concept store in London, one Italian high-street retailer skillfully used touchscreen tables that allow visitors to see the entire range to revolutionise its store experience. Additionally, it no longer uses traditional checkpoints in favour of payment terminals scattered around the store, making it simple for clients to complete their purchases.
Retailers who are flexible and adaptable will prosper in this age of commerce, where sales can take place everywhere. The use of just conventional approaches cannot be sustained. Customers want to use every channel that is offered and anticipate receiving the same level of service regardless of which one they select. Successful retailers facilitate this desire and the shift from the web to the actual world.
As consumers enjoy various parts of both online and offline purchasing, the boundaries between ecommerce and retail are becoming less distinct. Retail technologies can bring brick-and-mortar and eCommerce together in a harmonious and sustainable way that makes the customer journey genuinely smooth and offers comfort and convenience that every customer can enjoy.