The gap between physical and online retail is closing…and fast…but that doesn’t mean the gap no longer exists!
Creating an omnichannel retail strategy that caters to a range of customer journeys and cross-crosses between in-person and digital realms is a top priority for retailers right now, but as these journeys increase in complexity, retailers run the risk of allowing customers to fall through the cracks.
As well all know, COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for e-commerce. In 2020, online sales grew by 36% (the highest growth seen in 13 years), according to a survey by IMRG. And a survey by Shopify revealed that 84% of US consumers have shopped online since the pandemic. This has undoubtedly caused an irreversible shift in consumer shopping habits. However, only 15% of consumers said they were happy with their online shopping experiences, according to a recent Contentsquare survey, suggesting a need for richer and more personalized shopping experiences.
When it comes to receiving service, many customers lose interest when the customer journey becomes too complex or difficult. A Gartner study found 96% of consumers with a high-effort service interaction become more disloyal compared to just 9% who have a low-effort experience.
Here are some ways retailers can stop customers from falling through the cracks when switching channels and invest in deeper, more personalized customer experiences across multiple channels:
Connect online shoppers to one-on-one services
The biggest area that online shopping excels at is on the personalization front, but where it is often lacking is the ability to answer questions, provide reassurance of a purchase or offer advice or support – these are some of the main reasons why customers bother visiting a store.
But what the pandemic has shown us is that this level of service can be provided through virtual services. According to an October 2020 survey by Qudini, 45% of US consumers want virtual appointments from all stores types.
Retailers should create the opportunity for their customers to schedule time with product and style experts to ask questions or receive advice. A great example of this (shown below) is to promote the opportunity to schedule a personalized service on your product pages as well as on your store finder tool, in your nav bar and on landing pages.
Or you can promote appointments in your stores!
Respect your customers chosen channel
While it is important to provide customers with a range of communications channels to cater to all customer types, it’s worth bearing in mind that asking customers to switch from digital to more traditional channels (or vice versa) can disrupt the journey.
For instance, if they are looking at your services through their smartphone, then you ask them to call your contact center or visit a store and contact a store associate to schedule an appointment, this can cause customers to drop off. Instead, set up an online scheduling system that allows customers to schedule services without leaving the page, and keep them updated and engaged with email and SMS alerts. And when they visit a store, allow them to check in online through their smartphone. This journey respects the customer’s chosen channel choice and keeps them engaged throughout.
Provide online consumers with easier ways to shop
If online delivery times are delayed, costly or inconvenient, your customers could be tempted to visit a competitor instead – initiatives like buy online pickup in-store and curbside pickup are great alternatives to bridge this gap. They also encourage customers to visit your store, increasing the opportunity for upselling.
According to the same Qudini survey, 20% of consumers want retailers from all types to offer curbside pickup, indicating that a significant number of people could benefit from this service.
Bring e-commerce-level personalization into stores
While privacy concerns have put off some, the majority of customers have come to like personalization – it provides them with a more relevant, convenient and engaging experience.
When visiting stores, many consumers have come to expect the same level of personalization that they would receive online, but to do this customer data is essential.
To better explain, Qudini provides retailers with appointment scheduling, queue management, task management and event management software, and it captures 100 new data points on a single customer’s experience, including:
- Who visits your stores and why.
- Which channels they used.
- What was their experience like.
- Where they came from.
- If they are already loyal customers.
- Their demographic information.
- Who is cancelling or walking out.
- Who served them and how long it took.
- What their specific feedback was.
- Factoring public data like the weather into the equation.
- Data from your third party tools and their correlation to customer activities.
- And much more…
This level of data allows retailers to fine tune the customer experience by decided when to roster on store associates and where to position them in-store, and how to stop customers from leaving stores by allowing them stay engaged and informed throughout their journey. It informs retailers of the channels they should invest in and which to drop, and it allows them to follow up with customers after their visit to gather feedback or provide additional services.
Invest in a range of communications channels
To cater to a range of omnichannel customer journeys, it’s important to have free and open two-way communication between you and your customers.
Some worthwhile ideas to increase communication include:
- Having an online chat function where customers can ask questions
- Asking customers for feedback through surveys to identify areas for improvement
- Enabling in-store customers to “Call a store associate” from a kiosk or through their smartphones when they need help
- Following up post-visit over email or SMS with useful follow-up information
- Investing in a dynamic appointment scheduling service that caters to a range of customer journeys
- Enabling customers to join virtual queues to services through whatever channel suits them, whether that’s through a customer host or kiosk, or digital channels such as via SMS message, QR code or through your website or app.
By increasing communication across the right channels, your brand can significantly reduce the number of customers who give up mid way through their customer journey.