With e-commerce now a normal part of everyday life, the number and frequency of in-person interactions is decreasing, and sometimes disappearing altogether. However, even as online shopping pervades, brands are finding important value connecting with customers face-to-face, whether through local pop-up shops, brand-sponsored community events or new brick-and-mortar locations.
In-person experiences are often the best way to provide a more personalized experience, which is something consumers deeply value, according to two recent InMoment studies. Our most recent Retail Industry Report found that the increasingly common consumer practice of selection and price checking a competitor’s inventory while shopping in-store tends to increase the overall spend when accompanied by personal assistance.
Similarly, our 2017 CX Trends Report delved into the area of personalization and again confirmed the role of tailored interactions for customers across touchpoints. The qualitative data revealed that personalized, in-person interactions are particularly meaningful and boost loyalty. It’s no wonder then that even online-only brands known for superior customer experiences are experimenting with in-person experiences at the hyperlocal level.
Zappos, one of the most iconic e-commerce and customer experience giants, is turning to a traveling in-person experience to create a personal and differentiated connection with shoppers through charity events and live music alongside shopping. When done properly, consumers won’t think of their engagement as shopping, but a special experience that deepens their relationship with the brand.
Many retailers are still hesitant to dive into hyperlocal markets, fearing that their efforts won’t pay off in the long run. However, as competition grows, smart hyperlocal strategies can be an effective way to differentiate and connect with customers in new ways.
Heightened Emotional Connection to the Brand
Retailers without a brick-and-mortar presence at all (like Zappos) have fewer opportunities to reach customers with an emotional connection, as it’s often more difficult to connect with customers behind a screen. Even big-name brands with physical locations lose out when they don’t tailor experiences to markets and individuals.
Zappos’ traveling in-person experience combats this issue through community, culture and charity — three elements that can be highly emotional and best served in the interactive environment of "real life." And as emotion outranks ease and effectiveness as the No. 1 driver of a great customer experience, brands should follow suit.
Large online retailers can also take lessons from the success of “mom and pop” shops that are more in tune to the local community by offering regular events. An athletics chain might organize weekly free yoga classes or community bike rides to get shoppers involved beyond simple transactions.
These local events also provide national brands with opportunities to get real feedback from customers, consistently improve local experiences and maintain authenticity. Since hyperlocal events won’t make an impact if they aren’t tailored to each community, this feedback is vital to a strategy that works.
Natural Integration Between Online and In-Person Experiences
Increased brand engagement at hyperlocal events encourages shoppers to reach across platforms and order online. Consumer spending increases four times when shoppers are engaged by both staff and a brand’s website. This is especially true if staff have a solid understanding of each individual’s relationship with the brand.
At Zappos’ events, customers can touch and feel products in real life, and then easily check out items thanks to geo-located iBeacons. This approach offers the convenience of online shopping while still providing customers that emotional in-person experience they crave.
This is similar to the new model of bookstores that Amazon.com is rolling out across the country. Customers can buy a limited, curated selection of products in-store, test out products like the Amazon Kindle and then order other products for delivery.
Brands can take this further by offering local products only available at specific locations, again strengthening that personal connection. lululemon’s “Lab” in New York City offers exclusive products like accessories and apparel specifically created for Manhattanites. The Lab also allows shoppers to interact with lead designers that set up shop in-store making product samples.
So as brands face fewer opportunities to interact with customers in person and cultivate the emotional connections that drive sales and loyalty, many are beginning to think outside the box. Big-name brands like Zappos and lululemon are finding success through interactive in-person experiences with hyperlocal connections. And all brands, regardless of size, will be smart to take a page out of this playbook.
Brennan Wilkie is the senior vice president of customer experience strategy at InMoment, a customer experience management company.