Combining the Best Parts of Brick and Click for an Awesome Customer Experience

Ecommerce or physical store – which channel is better? Increasingly, retailers are recognizing that both have incredible value. The challenge now is to combine the best of both worlds to deliver an amazing omni-channel customer experience.

In this article we want to talk about exactly how to mine the best parts of brick and click, minimize the 'bad bits,' and leave your customers smiling!

For years, industry experts have predicted that Ecommerce would soon eclipse brick-and-mortar shopping. But, despite a steady rise, online sales still account for just 7.2% of overall US retail sales.

Source: YCharts.

What is it about shopping in-store that gives it such an enduring appeal?

Touch and feel

One of the most obvious advantages of shopping in-store is that it gives customers the chance to really 'try before they buy.' Studies suggest that 42% of customers prefer to shop in-store because they want to see the product in person before they buy it.

'Showrooming' – where customers browse products in store then head online to buy them – has typically been seen as a potential problem for retailers.

But in recent years, we've seen this trend start to work in reverse. We're now seeing the rise of 'webrooming' – where people research their products online, and then come to your store armed with a vast amount of product knowledge and a real intent to buy. Check out this article: 3 Ways Brick-and-Mortar Stores Can Win at Webrooming

Don't be afraid to actively encourage showrooming and webrooming – anything that drives footfall to your store, or traffic to your site, represents an opportunity for you to grow sales.

The question for online retailers, of course, is how you can possibly emulate the touchy-feely experience of in-store shopping? It's a challenge, no doubt. Many successful retailers bridge the gap by investing heavily in product photography and video. Brands like Zappos give you the power to zoom into product images so close that you can almost feel them!

Customers will pay an average of 50% more for items they can touch and see.

There's a wider point, here. There's a certain confidence involved in shopping in-store. Building that confidence and winning consumer trust is a fundamental issue for Ecommerce merchants, particularly when selling high-value items which represent a big commitment for customers.

One way around this is to offer samples. So, for example, sports nutrition company MyProtein.com, rather than expecting you to buy huge volumes of product without trying it first, give you the chance to buy smaller samples at a lower price point.

Consumers who research online before buying spend 33% more on average.

Instant gratification

When it comes down to it, one of the biggest advantages of shopping in store is simple; you walk away with the product, right there and then. No waiting for shipping, no wishing you'd paid more to get it next-day, no staying home for deliveries.

This level of convenience is something all retailers should aspire to. According to Forrester research, 51% of people who prefer to shop in-person say they do so because they don't want to wait for their item to arrive.

Clearly, a variety of shipping options and flexibility help bridge the gap somewhat for online retailers, and you can minimize the disruption for your customers by giving them power to rearrange their delivery or leave instructions even when it's out in the van.

But the real trick for online merchants is click and collect. This is the absolute epitome of merging the best of brick and click – with 76% of online shoppers expected to use it by 2017.

With click and collect, customers are able to carry out all their research online, reserve the product to avoid a wasted trip and then head to your store to pick it up at a prearranged date – preferably on the same day. It's a huge win, saving them time and money. Check out these 10 tips for improving the click and collect customer experience .

Online retailers: offer a physical pickup facility or, at the very least, plenty of convenient shipping options.

Offline retailers: use your online presence to clearly demonstrate inventory and, ideally, offer customers the chance to reserve online.

Returns

Another reason many people prefer to shop in-store is that, should there be a problem with the product, it's generally much less complicated to return in person. I mean, you just take the product back, show your receipt and get your refund or store credit.

Think about returning to an online retailer, on the other hand, and you're probably immediately thinking about lots of cardboard and parcel tape, returns forms to be completed and lengthy email exchanges – not to mention lost money on shipping.

Of course, there are ways to make this easier. You should clearly display your returns policy, and make the process as simple and clear for your customers as it can possibly be. Accept that some returns are inevitable and embrace this as an opportunity to keep their business in the future! Check out 4 Tips for Better Eco mmerce Returns and Exchanges

The best of click...

So what can offline retailers learn from the digital world of shopping?

Reviews and social proof

With 88% of consumers admitting they trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation, there's little doubt that this is an insanely powerful tool for merchants.

How do you utilise this tool offline?

There are a few options. Of course, you could physically display testimonials and product reviews around your store. Alternatively, you could arm your sales team with tablets which link to your online reviews.

Product information

Another huge win for online shoppers is the absolute wealth of product information they can access online. Seriously, take a look at some of the below product pages. This is an awesome amount of information to get about your products before you purchase.

For offline retailers, it's important to furnish your shoppers with all the information they need. Why not try printed hand-outs for certain items? Hook them up with a tablet that contains product information?

Price matching

Increasingly, retailers are moving away from the idea that online and offline are entirely separate entities. A lot of big retailers such as Best Buy and Target are now price matching online retailers, not just offline. Online retailers generally have a huge advantage over in-store when it comes to pricing – but, as an in-store retailer, you need to try and be as competitive as possible and really push some of your advantages which we've touched on in this article.

Closing thoughts

The gap between online and offline retail has never been as narrow, and that's only likely to shrink further as we move forward. Take a cerebral approach and look at the strengths and weaknesses of both options; there are lessons from online retailers to learn from offline, and vice versa.

Get your customers as close to the product as possible. Let them touch, feel and sample it. And, if you can't, take a leaf out of the online retailers book and empower them with reviews and extensive product information.

Make it quick and easy for them to get hold of the products. Offer plenty of shipping options. Make the returns process clear and simple. Merge the channels where you can – ask for online reviews from physical customers, and ask your online customers to come see you in store.

This is the age of omni-channel and success goes to those who merge brick and click. Good luck!

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