By Al Beery, Al.firstname.lastname@example.org
Cross-channel shopping has transformed the way consumers conduct product comparisons. Customers no longer have to drive between stores to determine where to find the item they want at the best price. As a result, many brick and mortar retailers are observing a phenomenon called “showrooming” – consumers use a store to try out a new camera or see how a dress fits before buying the product at a lower price from an online retailer. While showrooming can certainly be damaging to a business, it also presents an opportunity for retailers to rethink their strategy, leverage their in-store advantages and make on- and offline channels complement each other.
Unify the online and in-store offerings
E-commerce is constantly growing and chain stores need to adapt by making their physical store locations an extension of their online offering. The best way to do this is to leverage their inherent advantages – personalized customer service, no wait time and zero shipping fees. For example, if a customer is viewing a product online, it will be important for a retailer’s website to let them know which nearby locations have that specific product available.
Obtaining data on customer shopping and purchase history is another way to drive foot traffic. If you know that your customer has been looking at a product for an extended period of time on your store’s website or mobile app, the retailer can follow up with offers for that product via email. By doing this, retailers are communicating their appreciation to their customers who have spent time looking at their website and in turn, those customers will be more likely to visit that retailer’s store or website for future needs rather than turning to a competitor.
Enhance the in-store experience
The advantage of in-store customers is that they may not want to wait for the product they are looking to buy to arrive in the mail. Customers walking into a retail location are, at minimum, interested in purchasing a product. This makes it increasingly important for retailers to be able to anticipate incoming customers’ needs and wants.
Retailers should not wait until a customer has walked through the doors to create a positive in-store experience. A retailer with an online offering can track what a customer has viewed and provide deals or offers that are redeemable at their nearest location. Customers will appreciate that retailers are paying attention to their preferences as well as the opportunity to avoid a shipping fee.
Provide employees with a 360-degree view of customers
Retailers need to make sure that in-store employees are armed with the tools to provide a positive experience. This means preparing employees for face-to-face interactions by providing a complete, 360° view of each customer.
Not only should retailers gather information about what a customer has bought, but also which channel preferences they demonstrate. Retailers can then use this information, along with predictive analytics to anticipate their customers’ future needs and wants. If a customer recently made a purchase online and is now at a register, the cashier can anticipate that the customer has a question that was not answered by the information available online. In the future, customers will remember the high level of service they received and will likely turn straight to a retailer’s physical location for more complex needs.
Send only personalized deals and offers
Knowing customers’ tastes and purchase habits provides opportunities to not only send offers, but send offers that are tailored to them. By mining purchase history, customers can be identified as online-centric, store-centric or cross-shoppers, so that campaigns and interactions can be properly tuned to each customer’s preferred behavior.
Smart retailers are using advanced customer communications tools alongside predictive analytics to deliver highly targeted offers to each customer. Providing personalized deals enables retailers to build customer trust, making it increasingly likely that customers will spend more time and money with a brick and mortar retailer that understands their preferences as opposed to turning to an online alternative.
Surprise and delight your customers
Retailers also need to be paying attention to what their customers are saying on social media platforms. If a loyal customer has been advocating for a retailer on Twitter, retailers can express their appreciation by providing exclusive in-store deals. This could be an offer the customer receives in-store and provides a great way to surprise customers, making their experience memorable.
The more channels there are to interact with customers, the more opportunities there are to close sales. The retailer that does the best job of holistically addressing customer needs regardless of channel will be in a better position to yield high customer satisfaction levels and customer retention results. Using customer behavior data along with predictive analytics is a critical step that allows retailers the ability to effectively manage customer needs, preferences, and requirements.
Al Beery is the director of client Services for Pitney Bowes Software with over 20 years of experience in location intelligence, data analytics, retail site selection and marketing strategy and analytics. He can be reached at Al.email@example.com.