7 Tips to Integrate and Create a Synergy Between Your Physical and E-Commerce Stores
Where do you sell your products?
If you answered ‘only in-store,’ you are falling behind. In today’s highly digital age, consumers expect options when they shop. And if you are not offering those choices, your customers may go to your more tech-savvy competitor.
The two worlds have merged. Consumers go into stores, evaluate products, and make their purchases online. Or, they research online and go into the store for their purchases. If you are not covering both spectrums, you are missing out.
The days of physical stores being separated from e-commerce stores are over.
Today, most shoppers use a combination of online and in-store interactions to complete their purchases.
As a business, its important that you are present on both channels so you can take advantage of this.
The question is, how do you create a synergy between your physical and e-commerce stores? How do you integrate the online and offline shopping experiences? How do you benefit from the physical retail and digital convergence? Read on to find out.
Local Merchants Physical and E-Commerce Store Opportunistic Synergy: Integration and Benefits
Today, aligning the in-store experience with the online experience is a must for every omnichannel retailer. Consumers expect to be able to transition from in-store to online (and vice versa) seamlessly, receiving a consistent experience across both channels. They are looking for instant gratification, convenience, and the best possible experience regardless of whether they are in your physical store, online, or on a mobile device. If they don’t get what they want when they want it, they will not hesitate to take their business that can provide the unified experiences that they are looking for.
As an omnichannel local merchant, there are several steps that you can take to integrate and create a synergy between your in-store and online experience to attract, convert, and satisfy customers.
Include physical retail and digital strategies in planning.
Digital retailers that include a physical presence, whether that involves opening their own location or partnering with a traditional store, often experience higher sales. One study found that omnichannel customers spent, on average, 4% more in-store and 10% more online over the course of 14 months compared to customers who only used a single channel. Every additional channel used resulted in a higher amount of money spent. Consumers who used 4 or more retail channels spent 9% more, on average, compared to single-channel consumers.
However, even with the e-commerce revolution, physical stores still play a crucial role in the customer experience. Whether its being able to physically touch a product, or the immediacy of fulfillment, physical stores maintain its importance.
Well-deployed physical and digital retail channels have a symbiotic relationship. While there are definitely e-commerce merchants that take a lot of business from physical stores, the reality is that including both avenues in business planning can and does bring about better business results than leaving them separate.
Keep both platforms unique.
Service quality, branding, and stock should be consistent both in-store and online. However, having a unique draw to both types of purchase make it easier to promote your storefront. For instance, an online store can offer free delivery for certain locations or orders, whereas your physical store might allow certain products to be gift-wrapped or customized and handed directly to the customer.
E-commerce stores will always be easier to access, so it’s important to play up the strengths of your physical store instead of covering its faults. Trying to bring elements of your physical store into your online presence will usually just frustrate your customers in the long run. So, while its important to integrate these two, keeping both platforms unique has its benefits too.
Provide inventory availability.
One of keys to a fulfilling customer experience for today’s omnichannel shopper is having access to real-time product availability. Using a centralized retail order management system guarantees that both associates and shoppers have the ability to view accurate inventory status for all products across the chain.
Displaying this information on your website is particularly important for shoppers who research retailers’ websites to show which products are out-of-stock in their physical stores. As a retailer, the last thing that you want to do is frustrate a potential customer by indicating on your website that a product is available in-store, only for them to find out that it is sold out when they get to your physical store. That’s one sure-fire way to lose a customer, not to mention the additional damage that can be done when they share their negative experience on social media.
Focus on providing a more consistent brand experience.
To maximize the convergence between physical and e-commerce channels, local merchants need to focus on providing a consistent brand experience across channels. A unified brand experience is effective in completing transactions; in fact, one study found that 40% of consumers purchase more from retailers that provide a personalized shopping experience across channels.
Integrating physical and digital retail channels also offer better insights into customer behaviors. By combining information such as a customer’s in-store purchase patterns with their clickstream, retailers can better target offers in real time to drive customer behavior and strengthen loyalty. Understanding your customers’ behavior and developing an in-depth view of their buyer’s journey is crucial to streamline their experience both offline and online.
The days of in-store only and online-only coupons are gone. As more and more consumers start shopping on one channel and then finish on another, having synergized promotions have become very important. Part of delivering a consistent and seamless omnichannel experience is making sure that all promotions, coupons, sales, and other marketing campaigns are aligned.
Consumers expect the discounts that they see in an online promotion to be applicable in-store as well, and vice versa. For instance, the email promotion that a customer opens on their smartphone advertising a 10% discount off their next order should be redeemable with a promo code on your e-commerce site, in addition to being valid when they are checking out at your physical store. Aligning your promotions across both channels goes a long way towards building trust with customers, and ultimately results in customer loyalty and more sales.
Create demand and artificial limits.
Finding ways to drive customers into buying something can be difficult with a single-platform business. However, with an e-commerce platform, you have an extra way to funnel them towards a certain service or product. If your store sells items from a brand that you own alongside more widespread lines, consider making certain ones exclusive to online or in-store customers to encourage a particular platform.
Also, if your e-commerce platform has too many advantages over an in-store purchase, your customers will have barely any reason to visit your physical location. While offering customers a great experience is important, artificially limiting certain parts of your product or service (i.e. increasing delivery times) can provide more incentives to go for an immediate physical purchase.
Offer live chat services.
One of the things that online shoppers miss about the in-store experience is the ability to interact with real people when they require assistance. Whether it’s to ask questions about a certain product or to solve a problem with their order, many consumers dislike the traditional ways of getting support when they are shopping online.
Phone support can be slow and frustrating when they have to navigate a complex interactive voice response (IVR) to reach an agent who can assist them. Email can be slow and impersonal. On the other hand, live chat makes the support experience easy and quick. Customers typically don’t have to wait as long to get help because most agents can handle several chat sessions at a time. Customers also benefit from being able to continue shopping while they are chatting with an agent. Ultimately, live chat can help bridge the gap between the in-person and virtual experience by giving online shoppers a convenient and fast way to get all of their questions answered by a live representative without picking up the phone or stepping foot in your store.
The Bottom Line
In today’s omnichannel retail world, providing an amazing in-store experience or a great online experience just isn’t enough. You have to do both.
To integrate and create a synergy between your in-store and online experience to attract, convert, and satisfy customers, make sure to include physical retail and digital strategies in planning, keep both platforms unique, provide inventory availability, focus on providing a more consistent brand experience, align promotions, create demand and artificial limits, and offer live chat services.
Retailers gaining market share are those that are finding innovative ways to synergize and integrate all channels into one cohesive experience that truly meets consumers’ expectations. If you can integrate and streamline the shopping experience across both channels, you will be on your way tow inning new customers, retaining your existing ones, and giving them a compelling reason to keep coming back.