One thing that’s become clear throughout the last year is that human beings are remarkably adaptable.
Navigating through a global pandemic is certainly not easy, but in large part, both individuals and businesses have accepted this new reality.
For retailers whose stores were closed for much of the year, building up the online customer experience and investing in consumer-facing technologies were top priorities. As a result, shoppers have come to rely on the ease of shopping online.
From sorting through hundreds of products in seconds, identifying the right items with the click of a button, receiving personalized on-screen recommendations, and earning discounts for loyalty, shoppers have embraced higher standards for customer experience.
Now, as in-store shopping resumes, consumers are bringing these new standards with them.
Reopening Retail Will Be About Blended Experiences
The importance of building a solid omnichannel experience isn’t new — “omnichannel” has been a buzzword for years.
But after getting used to the convenience of online shopping, customers’ expectations for physical stores have risen, altering the playing field.
Imagine a shopper discovered your brand online during the pandemic and became a regular buyer. They immediately fell in love with your look, the accuracy of your product recommendations, and your digital channels as a whole. But after entering your store for the first time, they can’t locate the items they want, the sales associates are of little help, and the checkout process is painstakingly slow.
In this scenario, the customer’s perception of your brand will plummet, and you may even lose them altogether.
With omnichannel shoppers being more loyal and more eager to spend, mending fragmented experiences is crucial. According to Adyen’s Unified Commerce Index, customers that shop online and in-store buy twice as often as single-channel shoppers and spend 30% more per purchase.
It’s clearly time to ensure your in-store experience is on par with digital, but with so many possibilities from contactless checkout to improved app experiences, knowing where to start is a challenge.
To ensure your omnichannel innovation investment pays off, I suggest placing your initial focus on in-store product discovery. If you can make it as enjoyable and simple to find the right items in your stores as it is on your website, you have a better chance of winning over shoppers.
Conversely, if it’s tricky or inconvenient for shoppers to find their ideal products, any investment you make in a better in-store checkout experience, for example, may go unnoticed.
What Does Omnichannel Product Discovery Look Like?
The following values should be top priority as you bolster omnichannel product discovery — especially ahead of the next chapter of pandemic recovery.
Shoppers will prefer to limit their time in stores as much as possible. By making product discovery more efficient, you can facilitate greater sales while providing the in-store experience shoppers are looking for.
Here are some key steps to take:
1. Rethink store layouts. Preventing congestion will make people feel more comfortable. Make sure there is plenty of space for multiple people around your shelves, racks, and displays, and mark appropriately distanced spaces for people to stand when waiting in lines to try on or check out.
2. Introduce digital tools that streamline browsing. Offer tablets or screens that show shoppers the inventory you have in-store, with the same search and filtering capabilities you provide online. After selecting the items they want to view or try on, a sales associate can arrive with them in hand. Another option is to allow shoppers to save items of interest on your app, and receive location-based notifications that explain exactly where in the store to find them.
3. Provide smart mirrors in fitting rooms. Mirrors that can scan what a shopper tries on and provide relevant product recommendations create delightful, personalized experiences and help shoppers discover more of your inventory without leaving the fitting room. This is one of the best ways to bring on-screen recommendation carousels in-store.
4. Train sales associates for experience continuity. By ensuring that your in-store staff have full awareness of your online experience, they will be better positioned to provide the same level of service. On top of offering more helpful support, they will have a better sense of trending items and products that are frequently bought together to help them provide more informed recommendations.
5. Connect in-store checkout to online customer profiles. When shopping online, customers’ full purchase history is saved to their online profile, and used to inform future product recommendations. You can do the same in stores. By connecting in-store purchase data to shoppers’ online profiles, you can provide even more on-point recommendations for multichannel shoppers.
6. Enable product ratings. By allowing shoppers to rate the products they try on in stores, either on your app or on a store device, you can create another avenue from which to learn about your shoppers’ preferences. You can then use this information to better inform inventory assortment, keeping the most relevant items in-stock and highly visible.
How Efforts to Improve In-Store Experiences Foster Loyalty
A true omnichannel experience blurs the lines between online and in-store. Wherever a shopper interacts with your brand, whether it’s at home via your website or standing face-to-face with a sales associate, they want to feel recognized, seen, and heard.
When you get this right, customers are more likely to stick around.
According to research from the Aberdeen Group, companies with strong omnichannel customer experiences retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared to 33% of companies that deliver weak omnichannel experiences.
In an unpredictable and volatile retail landscape, customer loyalty is more valuable than ever. If customers are already engaging across multiple channels, continuity is the key to keeping them engaged in the long-term.
Today, we are at a unique juncture, in which the rise of eCommerce has conditioned shoppers to expect more from the in-store experience. It’s time to embrace the omnichannel imperative.