How to Drive Growth by Connecting In-Store and E-Commerce Strategies
Hyperbolic headlines have been fueling the "retail apocalypse" fire.
With e-commerce giants like Amazon.com seeing its net sales increase 38 percent in the last quarter, it’s tempting to fan the flames. However, stores aren't relics of the past; they’re a secret weapon for retailers. To stay competitive, retailers must provide engaging shopping experiences that are consistent across all channels. This shift from sporadic transactions to consistent relationship building is part of a larger industry trend that we call "relationship commerce." A true omnichannel strategy requires a holistic customer experience.
You’ll need to create the proper strategy and training, and tap new technologies, to build these omnichannel experiences. Here are some tips on connecting your in-store and digital services to better serve your customers:
1. Remove financial competition between in-store and online teams.
Don’t disregard your sales associates. In-store teams remain a crucial element to building cross-channel customer relationships. Integrate digital sales goals into the in-store sales experience to create a symbiotic relationship between the two. If your in-store teams view e-commerce as a threat to their customer relationships, they’ll be less willing to create and cultivate cross-channel experiences.
Educate sales associates on why an omnichannel experience will actually help grow relationships rather than lose them. Look at The Vitamin Shoppe: it expanded its Spark Auto Delivery program to include point-of-sale-enabled subscription enrollment. While the subscription enrollment counts towards digital sales, the sign-up was facilitated by the in-store team — which continues to get credit for ongoing purchases — effectively removing any financial competition.
2. Omnichannel doesn’t have to be high tech; old school sales pitching reigns.
Your stores are a direct line to your customers. Unlike an online pop-up ad or an email quickly marked as spam, friendly sales associates can drive add-ons and opt-in programs. Once your in-store and online teams are aligned, focus on successfully incentivizing your in-store teams to showcase and effectively promote online initiatives.
Use training opportunities and internal contests to educate, empower and motivate your staff.
Nearly one-third (32 percent) of today’s retail employees (the highest of any industry) lack any formal training. Sales associates aren't just bodies in a store — they are your brand. Teach your associates how to pitch and most effectively message online services. Next, establish actionable quotas or benchmarks to invigorate your teams with a sense of healthy competition. Set a monthly goal for the number of sign-ups your team needs to hit for a service (such as a new SMS-based reordering service), and once that goal is met, your team is rewarded with a cash bonus or celebratory event.
3. Loyalty programs can be a secret weapon for connecting consumer data.
Bridging in-store and online data helps build a holistic profile of the customer's preferences. This data helps to create highly coveted personalized experiences. While consumers have been conditioned to freely share their personal contact information and data online, there's a disconnect between data collection online and in-store. In order to combine data, you must incentivize customers to share this data in-store.
Loyalty programs provide the perfect opportunity for consumers to be rewarded for tracking their relationship with a retailer. They free up their behavioral data to be analyzed to build better, more personalized shopping experiences. Linking membership profiles to mobile apps encourage consumers to record their in-store behavior.
For instance, Walmart's latest updates to its mobile app allow consumers to check in-store product availability ahead of time and build digital shopping lists while they’re in-store. This data will inform promotions to help build recurring relationships with consumers through subscriptions and other means of dynamic reordering.
Consumers expect consistent experiences across channels. We’re witnessing Amazon and Walmart already deliver on these expectations, and even reimagining the in-store model. Brick-and-mortar retailers have an advantage with their existing network of stores. They must better utilize their space and teams, and look not only to new technology, but to the right technology, in order to create a holistic customer experience that will drive growth.
Greg Alvo is the CEO of OrderGroove, a company that helps brands and omnichannel retailers practice and achieve relationship commerce.