There has been a lot of discussion around how COVID-19 has influenced online shopping and consumer expectations when shopping digitally. It’s well known that customers now expect greater personalization due to retailers gaining more information on individuals and their buying preferences, greater flexibility on payment and return processes, as well as expecting retailers to offer more products and better stock control to provide more a more accurate and reliable shopping experience, from initial browsing all the way through to final delivery. And while there has been a number of changes to in-store shopping experiences, the majority of these changes are short-term, temporary adjustments. But what about meeting more long-lasting customer demands? For years, brands have been trying to bring elements from the in-store experience to their e-commerce sites, but now that customers have been shopping predominantly online for nearly 18 months, what elements from online shopping experiences need to be brought to the in-store counterpart to match consumer expectations?
Use of Mobiles and Apps
Prior to 2020, 80% of shoppers in America were already using mobile phones in brick and mortar stores to help them make purchase decisions (OuterBox). This number is expected to have risen since with more customers wanting to use their phones to avoid interacting with things that they otherwise would have prior to COVID-19, such as display products, stalls and self-service tablets.
Not only can developing an app help support these new issues that consumers face when shopping in-store, but 80% of the general population and 90% of heavy mobile users believe that apps designed to support in-store shopping improve the overall in-store shopping experience (Retail Dive). Below are some ideas for how brands can use mobile apps to improve their in-store experience and convert browsers into buyers.
Product Information and Reviews
One of the biggest drawbacks for customers when shopping in-store compared to online, is that they don’t receive the same amount of information from retailers about individual products. A recent global consumer study conducted by Conversity, found that 82% of shoppers were “very satisfied” with the level of information retailers provided online when making a purchase, compared to only 47% of shoppers when shopping in-store. Similarly, reviews also play a massive role in influencing consumer decisions. 94% of online shoppers read reviews when they are available (Dixa) and displaying reviews for higher-priced products can increase online conversion rates by 380% (The Chat Shop). The use of reviews and product information has enabled shoppers to make more informed purchase decisions. And despite in-store shopping regaining its popularity, this is something that consumers are unlikely to want to stop doing when shopping in-store.
A simple fix for this is to incorporate a scan and shop function, like Nike have on their Nike+ app. The scan and shop function of the app has a number of features that enhance the shopping experience at certain flagship Nike stores. When scanning an item at one of these flagship stores, customers can;
- Find out more information about the product
- See the available sizes and colours for that item, in the store where it was scanned, nearby stores and online
- Request to try-on the item if it is one where not all stock is on display, such as footwear or equipment
- Instantly checkout an item that they are interested in by taking a shopper through a digital checkout, also providing far more flexibility for payment methods then usual when shopping in-store
When it comes to online shopping, personalization is everywhere. Effective e-commerce relies on targeted marketing, which relies on retailers obtaining as much information on individuals as possible and storing in a CDP (Customer Data Platform). It’s clear why retailers go to this effort, 91% of consumers say that they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them (Accenture) and 63% of consumers will stop buying from brands that use poor personalization tactics (Smart Insights). That is why you see adverts featuring items you have often looked at online, minutes/hours/days after you looked at that item, or retailers will send an email with a discount on an anniversary of purchasing or creating an account, or why you may receive emails with products related to an item you recently purchased. Similarly to product information and reviews, this information is rarely used to improve the in-store shopping experience or improve in-store sales performance.
Again, features like this could be easily introduced to the in-store experience through the use of a mobile app. If a brand’s app was linked to a CDP that brand would be able to provide the same level of personalization through the app as they do online, by knowing their browsing habits, items they have recently bought/added to basket/abandoned and be able to retarget those customers through another touchpoint. Add in GPS functionality to the app and that brand could know when that phone is near one of their locations and use that as a trigger to send a notification about in stock items that a person has looked at online. This functionality could even be combined with a scanning function (as mentioned previously) to provide a special offer when you know a customer is in-store. For example, if a customer scans a barcode on a laptop in-store using the app, the retailer will know that this customer is in a store and looking at laptops, and at that moment could then send an in-store discount code through the app to be used on laptops, cases and accessories.
Both augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are used quite widely by retailers online trying to help shoppers visualise products. Something that at face value, isn’t a problem when shopping in-store as there are often display products or it’s easy to tell what a product looks like. However, the role of bricks-and-mortar shops is expected to change in certain industries. Showrooming, browsing in-store before buying that item online, is expected to become more popular (BBC.com) which presents completely different challenges to retailers which can be helped through the use of AR and VR.
With a lot of retailers wanting to downscale their physical store presence, one of these challenges is how to provide a good showrooming experience for a wide product range whilst also trying to downscale your physical presence. One potential solution is AR, which would allow retailers to effectively display every product they sell without taking up any additional space.
Another potential issue is the use of free samples, tester products or for clothing/apparel, trying on items. One of the biggest reasons why customers prefer to shop in-store instead of online is because they want to see what the item looks like on them. But in the current climate a large proportion of shoppers don’t want to interact with items that they may not buy or depending on the laws in certain countries/states, retailers may not even be allowed to offer samples or try-ons. VR is a good option to avoid these potential barriers with examples such as Sephora’s Visual Artist feature on their app which allows users to see what different make-up product combinations look like on their face, with the user only have to interact with their own phone.
All of these solutions could be really effective for a brand, however they are self-service and cater more for “mobile reliant” customers who already like to use their phones when in-store, without brands providing anything to enhance in-store experiences. Only 46.8% of consumers are “mobile reliant” (PYMNTS.com), so what about the other 53% of shoppers?
That’s where Conversity Charm comes in. Charm is a Software-as-a-Service solution that is embedded on sales advisors’ smart devices, to ensure that everything that they need to consult a customer and ask for the sale is right at their fingertips. Charm provides both the corporately approved sales script and qualification steps as well as product, pricing and promotional data to support and enable advisors to provide the best product recommendations based on stock levels for each visitor they engage with.
Interested? Click here to find out more about Conversity Charm.