Since eCommerce has come to the fore for consumers, customer expectations have shifted: they now expect a seamless shopping experience, regardless of whether they shop on a desktop computer, mobile device or brick-and-mortar store. And these changing consumer demands mean money too - brands that have a unified experience see an average revenue increase of 33%.
But what does it mean to have a 'unified experience'?
Think of it like this: recently, I attended Tottenham vs. Brighton in a Premier League football match. I saw the game in person, but anyone who saw the game on TV, or streamed it on their phone can discuss it with me afterwards. We can talk about the same goals and decisions, even though we accessed the content and experienced it in different ways.
our business, and your products, are the football match - depending on people's circumstance, they will experience the game in different ways, but everyone should be able to follow it and enjoy it. Likewise, no matter how customers access your products or services, they should be able to achieve the same result.
We spoke to lots of Shiptheory customers while researching our new inventory syncing software, and a common theme emerged - retailers are struggling to truly unify their online and offline retail stores. That's why we've taken a deep dive, to help you truly bridge the gap between all of your retail channels.
Embrace an Omnichannel Strategy
When we say customers expect a unified experience, this doesn't just mean in terms of availability of products, but even in terms of branding and overall experience. These expectations have led to a rise in the 'omnichannel' approach. This integrates ALL your retail channels, both online and offline, to provide a consistent and unified experience to your customers.
To implement an effective omnichannel strategy, start by aligning your inventory everywhere you sell. This means between your online and offline store, but also between any online stores where you sell, too. Your customers should have access to accurate inventory information, regardless of whether they are shopping online or in-store.
In addition, offer convenient options such as "buy online, pick up in-store" (BOPIS) or "click and collect". This allows customers to purchase items online and pick them up in-store, saving them time and effort.
Streamline Returns for Online Purchases
Managing returns can be a challenging aspect of retail, especially when it comes to online purchases. Customers can get frustrated with their returns taking a long time, involving lots of effort on their part, and more and more retailers - such as Zara and Boohoo - are now charging for returns, too. This is where offering in-store returns for online purchases can be a game-changer to keep your customers happier when it comes to returns.
By allowing customers to return online sales in-store, you're giving your customers the flexibility to return things at their own convenience. Not only that, you're also also creating an opportunity for upselling or cross-selling. For example, if a customer returns a product purchased online in-store, your sales staff can suggest alternative products or offer discounts on other items, thereby driving additional sales.
To implement in-store returns for online sales, ensure that your return policies and processes are consistent across all channels, and that your customer service team are equipped to handle returns no matter where they come from.
Unified Loyalty Program
A loyal customer base is crucial for any successful retail business, and a loyalty program is a win-win - they get rewarded for sticking with you, and you get more business from repeat purchases. But you're only extracting the maximum potential from this if the loyalty program is unified for online AND offline purchases.
For example, if a customer earns points for an online purchase, they should be able to redeem those points in-store as well, and vice versa. Not only does this creates a simple, seamless experience, it also encourages customers to shop across channels, increasing customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
In addition, leverage your loyalty program to collect customer data and insights. By understanding your customers' preferences and behaviours across online and offline channels, you can personalize your marketing efforts and provide targeted promotions or discounts. The more data you have, the more effectively you can market.
Consistent Branding and Messaging Across Channels
Consistency is key when it comes to unifying your online and offline retail experience. Your brand's identity, messaging, and overall customer experience should be consistent across all channels to create a cohesive and memorable shopping journey for your customers.
The more a consumer sees of your business, the more they will remember you - its simple, right?
All of your brand's visual elements - logo, colours, and fonts - should be consistent across everywhere you sell. That means your website, social media, emails, and in-store signage should all be the same. This creates a recognisable brand presence and really hammers home your brand's identity in the minds of your customers.
Your promotions or discounts should be available across all channels - this not only avoids confusion or disappointment from a customer who is unable to redeem a promotion, but also creates a seamless experience for your customers, regardless of the channel they choose to interact with your brand.
Technology plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between online and offline retail channels (but obviously you knew that). By leveraging the right tools and software, you can streamline your operations, enhance the customer experience, and unify your online and offline channels.
There are a few different ways you may connect up different areas of your business, using different types of software depending on your needs:
- ERP systems, like NetSuite, manage all areas of business activity for large businesses, likely incorporating everything in both their online and offline stores.
- Software that links your POS systems with your eCommerce store will allow you to ensure inventory is synced both offline AND online.
- If you're just selling online, inventory software (like ours) allows you to automatically sync inventory between your online stores - saving you tons of time, stopping overselling and keeping the experience consistent wherever you sell online.
- Use a CRM (HubSpot, Pipedrive) to personalise your marketing efforts, understand customer preferences and behaviours, and provide a consistent and personalized experience across channels.
Furthermore, leverage mobile technology to connect online and offline channels. For instance, you can implement mobile apps that allow customers to browse and purchase items online, while also providing features such as in-store inventory check, personalized promotions, and easy access to your loyalty program. This creates a seamless and convenient shopping experience for your customers, and also provides an opportunity for additional sales and customer engagement.
As the retail landscape continues to evolve, it's crucial for retailers to bridge the gap between their online and offline channels to provide a seamless shopping experience to their customers.
By embracing an omnichannel strategy, streamlining returns, fostering customer loyalty, providing consistent branding and messaging, and leveraging technology, retailers can unite their online and offline retail experience and establish themselves as industry experts.
At Shiptheory, we understand the challenges that retailers face in unifying their online and offline channels - and we're always looking to help more! Everything we do is designed to optimize your operations and streamline your processes, so if you'd like to learn about how we can help streamline your shipping or sync your online inventory, you can learn more on the Shiptheory website.