How to replicate an in-store experience online. With the huge influx of businesses and customers selling & purchasing online, it is more important than ever to stand out. We look to traditional bricks and mortar stores to identify key features for 'replication' online.
As physical retail slowly resumes around the world, businesses that have adapted to selling online throughout the lockdowns will continue to do so alongside re-opening their stores or move their focus entirely. With the huge influx of businesses and customers on the online marketplace, it is more important than ever to stand out. We look to the traditional bricks and mortar experience to identify key opportunities & learnings you can implement or replicate online.
Engaging with retail staff
As an overall experience customers will still be yearning for interaction with retail staff in order to answer questions, find out more details about a product and ultimately guide their purchasing decision. Retailers need to think of innovative ways to provide customers with a high level of service while of course being at home, in the office, on the bus, or on the go. One way this has been implemented is through virtual stores where retail staff engaged with customers via video calls, Whatapp or Facetime. Customers have the opportunity to see products in more detail, ask specific questions, build trust and even have the staff try on items for them. Swedish retailer Tres Bien has successfully implemented this, by having staff on hand for certain hours in an open Zoom meeting to cater to customer questions and even try garments on for customers! This is a great way for customers to receive real-time feedback and encourage their purchase further with sales staff, rather than waiting on an email or message reply which could take hours to respond to. A group conversation amongst a number of staff and customers provides a great opportunity to deepen the community around a brand.
Similar to this, there has been a large uptake in brands utilising social media video content through Instagram Live, Facebook Live & stories to run Q&A’s with customers, showcase new season items, and talk through what’s to come. Being more interactive with your audience through these tools allows customers to be more engaged and interested in your brand, especially where they can’t visit stores physically. Finally, another method to drive interaction with customers is through instant pop-up chat messaging. While you can use this to chat with visitors on the website, we’ve also seen that adding in prompts to call a retail staff member directly to chat has been incredibly useful to close sales via phone and further build rapport with the customer.
Trying on a garment
Another tool to consider for the future is augmented reality and blockchain technology. One way this has been used is to provide customers with the ability to see a rendered 3D model of what the product looks like in person. The most commonly used E-Commerce platform Shopify allows for AR integration which has been very popular with non-fashion retailers such as homewares, sports, and appliances. Fashion brands such as Gucci and Nike have also started using augmented reality technology to let shoppers virtually “try on” clothing and shoes while the beauty industry is already deep into this space with augmented reality makeup apps. Stay tuned for more on this in an upcoming journal post. While augmented reality technology may not be feasible for your online store in the immediate future, it is worth considering how you can manually provide a more virtual experience by drawing on AR technology. Look at providing videos of garments on your product pages, using models in a range of sizes, high functioning zoom capabilities, or even product 360 motion graphics like that which can be done locally at Asset Factory.
One other key factor to consider is that during this time while customers cannot visit physical retail stores, returns policies need to be extended and be flexible. Giving customers more time and options when issuing a return will generate more confidence in purchasing and removes that added barrier of doubt that may be in their minds. Retailers need to ensure they’re giving their customers the best possible experience while remaining understanding of the environment and what else is going on within the industry.
Keeping in the loop
Finally, it’s extremely important to ensure your audience has up-to-date information and has it quickly. They need and want to know how you’re operating (and in what capacity), how to reach out to you in regards to questions, and how they can stay engaged with further updates to come. Areas to consider on your online store to present this information holistically are the announcement banner at the top of the page and the homepage - whether that’s in slideshow form or not. These two areas are immediately eye-catching and are often the first thing someone sees upon landing on your website. Use these areas to say if you are shipping orders, expected delays, upcoming product releases or events, and how to reach out to get the best timely response. These can easily be updated in the backend of your E-Commerce platform, so try to keep this as up to date as possible. Other areas that can be easily adjusted to include this type of information are your abandoned cart emails and order confirmation emails. Consider including a phone number for customers to call which allows retail staff to provide information over the phone directly.
As retailers adapt and move deeper into online strategies, the ability to bring some normality through old-school physical retail techniques such as phone and email will continue to be welcomed by customers. If people are visiting your site and are considering making a purchase, being able to communicate effectively with them in either traditional or unique methods will prove to be the difference. Having various communication channels to interact with your brand will keep your audience engaged and interested, updating your products to ensure customers have all the information they need and spreading correct information quickly are key factors replicating somewhat of an in-store experience online.