Amid repercussions from the pandemic, an increase in mobile use, and the ease of online ordering, the way consumers shop is changing. The lines between in-store and digital transactions continue to blur. Customers expect to seamlessly drift between different channels; if there are obstacles in their journey at one retailer, they will shift to another that is friction-free.
Despite the changing landscape, one factor remains steady: shoppers will pay careful attention to their experience and react to it. If they are treated well, they are more likely to buy more, tell their friends about it, and come back for later purchases. As the memoirist Maya Angelou noted, “People will never forget how you made them feel.”
Interacting with shoppers, asking about their wants and needs, and following up with them after the initial visit are possible in both the online and in-person worlds. Developing these experiences begins with stepping into the shoes of a customer. This exercise allows high-level executives to understand how shoppers view their stores, mobile apps, and websites.
When a customer walks into a jewelry store, is there someone there to greet them and ask them about their preferences? Does the sales associate have access to digital tools so the consumer’s email can be added to a database? Shoppers in a jewelry store could use virtual headsets to see what they would look like wearing a watch on their next vacation.
If customers have access to a retailer app, are they members of a community? Are they getting a sneak peek of up-and-coming merchandise? For those visiting a mobile site, is the text easy to read? The site could gather their information and save it, so they don’t have to re-enter the data when they log in from a different device.
As visitors land on a retailer website, are they immediately engaged? Is the online experience arranged to cater to their needs? Online consultants could be available to have a one-on-one session with a shopper. Clothing retailers could help visitors “try on” apparel by viewing themselves on the screen.
While customers may be captivated by a holiday display that is optimally positioned in a store, they won’t see the same arrangement when shopping online. The highlights in the digital world are different, and often center on what’s happening on social platforms. Consumers might check out what their favorite social media stars are suggesting for the upcoming holidays.
This presents an advantage for retailers that have a social media presence or relationships with influencers. Consumers are increasingly turning to the online community to read reviews, ask questions, and make decisions. If they can easily shop for the products they see, chances increase that they’ll make a transaction.
How do retailers determine if customers were satisfied with their experience? While there are options ranging from a quick “thumbs up vs thumbs down” to a star rating, many of these are limiting. It can be more meaningful to reach out to customers based on data from previous transactions. Customers that have made a certain number of purchases, such as 10 transactions during the past year, might have more to say about their experiences than an individual who buys two items in three years’ time. Customers will often appreciate the chance to share their insight.
In today’s world, customers are looking for more personalized experiences. Retailers that offer memorable moments will be well positioned to move ahead. They can expect satisfied buyers who are ready for their next transaction.
As a founding member and CEO of OSF Digital, Gerry has more than 15 years of experience managing start-ups and medium-size IT businesses and driving them to peak performance. With background in Enterprise Applications, IT Services and Consultancy, Gerry's impressive client and business portfolio sets him in the new breed for global entrepreneurship.