The Customer Experience:
A little over 20 years old now, E-commerce is a driving force in the world of retail; and yet Brick and Mortar still generates the majority of retail transactions, because consumers are seeking something the online world cannot truly replicate: The Customer Experience.
E-Commerce is only generating 7.5% of total retail sales, but the impact of digital marketing, consumer generated content and social media in general is creating a digital influence on brick & mortar sales to the tune of about $1.2 Trillion dollars in the US alone.
In the study commissioned by iVend, “Great Omni-channel Expectations“ one of their key findings was that of their survey respondents, 71% of them stated that they find shopping online more convenient that shopping in stores, 24% of the respondents went on to say that after shopping online, visiting a store feels like a “let down”.
Sure, shopping online is convenient, it’s easy. A few clicks and you’re done, all you have to do is wait for the delivery. Ah yes, the whole instant-gratification “thing” just hit a major snag. Then there’s the issue with some items like clothing, not all articles are made or fit the same, and despite the image, maybe you don’t look as good in purple as you thought. Maybe the item you bought is smaller or bigger than you thought.
There could be a million an one different reasons why purchasing online is more convenient, and there could be a million and one reasons why it doesn’t always make sense; sure you could be getting the best deal on the planet on that T-shirt, but if it doesn’t fit, what then?
Aside from the physicality of the products themselves, we believe one of the major reasons people still visit retail brick & mortar stores is the human interaction, albeit providing the experience is a good one. With disinterested or poorly trained/educated staff, it’s of no surprise iVend’s survey respondents felt like the store visit is a let-down.
You have all probably had a bad experience, or twenty, when shopping at what was your favorite store; the staff don’t seem to care, or know much about the products they sell or the company policies, items are in the wrong area or out of stock, or prices advertised online are higher in-store, or higher at checkout compared to the shelf tag. How did that experience make you feel? Have you re-visited the store since?
Believe it or not, that is one of the major hurdles facing the modern retailer today, and it has little to do with technology: the Customer Experience.
Omni-channel retail is consumer-centric, meaning it revolves around the customer, and the customer experience. How they are marketed to, sold to and serviced are all a part of their experience, and just as important as receiving the goods that they want, in a time-frame that’s acceptable to them. For many, the experience trumps the purchase, and that alone should be giving pause to retailers investing in automation within the store: self-service checkout and self-service information kiosks.
Let’s face it, if consumers really wanted to interact with more screens, they wouldn’t leave the comfort of their own homes to come and shop in your store. Most consumers are looking for an experience that makes their purchase of value, both in the dollars and the time they have spent. When they are visiting your Brick & Mortar store, they are looking for interactions, not transactions; they are looking for a customer experience that will set you apart from the other retailers.
This is not to say that a marriage of technology and humanity can’t work in omni-channel retailing, exactly the opposite in fact. Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have actually been showing to boost customer engagement in the brick and mortar space, and what’s better is that they have been proven to boost employee productivity and education.
The same tools that give consumers the informational edge when shopping can be used to educate your store staff, help them quickly summon product information or inventory levels, or improve the customer experience by being able to assist during a sale, or become the point of sale on the spot.
At A2R, we’ve made a number of strategic partnerships with forward-thinking solutions providers to be able to offer our clients the flexibility and freedom that mobile applications provide. If you would like to know more, please download our free Brochure here.