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Shopping may be more online - or offline?

High expectations for on-site service

How do you decide whether to buy online or offline? You want to shop in local retail stores to support business in the city center while enjoying the city buzz – because you love the variety and the hustle and bustle and wouldn’t miss it for the world... But in the evening, smartphone in hand, you end up ordering the product online – right?

Recently, I experienced the following:

On the search for a PC screen for my home office, I was determined to buy it in a local brick-and-mortar retail outlet. At the store, however, I quickly became disillusioned. Based on the selection on display, I knew very quickly what I didn’t want and, just as quickly, what I needed:
Because even though my desired product was not available, I was able to formulate a better picture of what I needed in terms of dimensions, color, and, of course, image quality. Seeing, touching, and sometimes even using my sense of smell guides me to the correct purchase decision on site. For me, this is an obvious advantage of offline retail. And my decision is so definite that the risk of having to return the product is extremely small...

My requests


But somehow, I didn’t quite manage to find the product of my choice. What did I need at that moment? What would I have liked to have?

The requests of consumers on site:

  • An attentive customer advisor: Customer advisors can sense potential disappointment and suggest options that bring us closer to the product we desire.
  • Direct local access to the more extensive online range of products – without a smartphone: The online product range often leads us to the product we desire and produces a successful buying experience.
  • Fast delivery – preferably the next day

Is it currently feasible to fulfill these requests? Yes, it is; however, brick-and-mortar outlets are slow to respond to changes in customer needs.
The rapid proliferation of online retailers with a strong customer focus has led to much higher customer expectations.

High expectations

What high expectations do we have as a result of online commerce?

  • bigger and better selection
  • frequently changing selection of products on offer
  • Special offers and low prices
  • Fast service: Minimal waiting and delivery times
  • More information - from product details and reviews

We now expect exactly the same from local retailers. However, space restrictions can make it difficult to provide a large selection of products in a brick-and-mortar store. New store concepts are needed. By skillfully blending the online and offline shopping experience, customer expectations can be modified in a positive and promising way.

GOOD TO KNOW

 

The “Fashion Connect” store” by fashion retailer Bonprix

The range of products on display is designed to inspire the customer – touching the fabric, seeing the color. There are no piles of clothes; everything is neatly organized. If you like a product, you scan it using an app (special terminals are also provided for this), select the size, and wait for it to arrive in the fitting room. If you decide to purchase the garment, it is simply added to the virtual shopping bag for “delivery.” Finally, you pay via the app, at the check-out bar, or with your debit/credit card. The shopping experience is also enhanced by extra little touches such as drinks and snacks in the fitting area.

Side-effects

If this approach is taken further, there are many more “side-effects” that can enhance the customer experience offline as well:

  • Retailers can now also call up customer information in the brick-and-mortar environment for products already purchased. This information can then be used for targeted product suggestions and identifying appropriate additional purchases. Customers can get the best possible advice from sales staff.
  • Taking the approach even further: How about mixing in suggestions from the customer’s entire wardrobe? Using an app such as “Stylebook”?
  • The following must also be taken into consideration: If a product is not available in the size requested, it should be ordered immediately for delivery – ideally on the same day, or the next day at the very latest.

Of course, this also places high requirements on the IT solution used – you can read more about this in the next installment on the topic.

My conclusion

Back to the start: If there had been a “Multimedia Connect” store, would I be the proud owner of a new PC screen by now? I think so, because I was able to define my criteria precisely based on the selection displayed on site. If I had received appropriate support and suggestions, I would have selected and paid for my product straight away and it would have been on my desk the very next day. A happy retailer and a satisfied customer – a win-win for both sides.

 

Further information:

INTEGRATE AND GROW