An Omnichannel Truce Between Online and Physical Retail
The objectives of online and physical retail stores have run counter to each other for long enough. It's time to call a truce. The initial trigger for this tension was the emergence of "showrooming," behavior that retailers feared breaks the designed value of physical retail stores.
Showrooming is actually not the enemy for most retailers. A recent study showed that 88 percent of consumers had performed "webrooming" (i.e., researching a product online before coming to a store to buy it), compared to 76 percent who had showroomed. That's great news for retailers who are prepared to support educated consumers who are primed to purchase.
We're closing in on a new age of physical retail that's marked by the introduction of e-commerce technology on the sales floor. The prime messengers of this information are sales associates, who will transform from supporting the fulfilment of a purchase to delivering counsel that increases the value to shoppers of time spent in store.
Equipping sales associates with in-hand technology that boosts their ability to serve consumers has a few immediate benefits:
1. Turns associates into product experts: A number of studies show that consumers feel more educated about their intended purchase than the sales associate tasked to help them. Store managers and associates are aware of this information asymmetry and are, in some cases, using their personal mobile devices to close the gap in product knowledge.
In a recent study from Motorola Solutions, 58 percent of customers helped by a store associate using a mobile device had a better shopping experience. That success rate is encouraging for both the customer and sales associate, promoting more interaction and higher likelihood that customer questions are being answered.
After all, we've all been frustrated by unhelpful retail conversations that we would sooner avoid.
2. Focusing on the long game — customer loyalty: When all channels act together to deliver the greatest rate of customer value, the whole business wins. This is the premise that the founders of Warby Parker acted on when they decided to open brick-and-mortar stores. It initially seems strange that a successful online retailer would take on the overhead and hassle of a physical store. Warby Parker's strategy of delivering a highly consultative purchase experience and shipping product to the customer's house at an additional cost shows not only a high rate of new customers, but also high purchase rates from the online channel after the initial sale.
Freely helping customers without favor for where the final transaction occurs prioritizes their needs and builds stronger customer loyalty.
3. Delivering personal shopping experiences: Imagine a level of service where a customer walks into a store and is greeted by name. Through a short series of questions by a sales associate, the customer is brought product options that readily meets their needs within minutes.
Though we're seeing this vision play out with personal shoppers at luxury retail stores, the advent of big data and capable store-level computing can bring this type of service to all retailers at all price points.
From wishlists and bookmarks to past purchases and client input preferences, sales associates are able to provide targeted service and make recommendations to customers in a way that very few retailers can. This is a huge opportunity on its own; more than 60 percent of retail executives highlight it as the top capability missing from their stores.
Calling an omnichannel truce opens a dialog on how all channels can support each other and makes better use of owned assets in service of the customer.