The relationship between bricks and mortar retailers in the High Street and online retailers has often been presented as adversarial – they threaten each other. In fact, many retail commentators have called out specific customer behaviours, such as showrooming, as threats to the traditional in-store experience.
Showrooming occurs when a customer browses in-store, looks at products, asks for advice, then leaves the store and buys the same product online at the cheapest website they can find. However, there is also the opposite behaviour, known as webrooming, where a customer does all their research into the product online and walks into a store knowing exactly what they want – they just want to see it in person before making the purchase.
This customer behaviour implies that the in-store and online experience is in fact more closely connected than many retail observers think. How can retailers with branch networks actually benefit from the habits of online shoppers rather than behaving as if the online and in-store environment is competing?
The answer is to bring the in-store and online experience closer together. In the US, 59% of retailers believe that their omni-channel customers (those who buy both online and in-store) are more valuable than customers who only ever buy in-store or online. Rather than treating online and in-store as separate types of retail, smart retailers are finding that the best customers are those who sometimes shop online and sometimes shop in-store.
Connecting the online experience to in-store has some very specific benefits that may not be obvious at first, but are important. Online shoppers need to login to a site. The retailer knows their shopping history and preferences. This means that the online experience is highly personalised with relevant deals, offers, and recommendations based on how the customer has purchased in the past.
None of this happens in-store because the customer walks into a shop and nobody knows who they are. Some customers are starting to feel that shopping in-store is a very anonymous experience compared to being online. Therefore we are seeing that some retailers are starting to address this issue by creating apps that can enhance the in-store experience.
Walmart is a great example. Not only does their app let the customer have access to more detailed information on everything they sell, it also allows the customer to pay for their shopping with their phone. By using the app the customer gets personalised recommendations while they are in the store, they capture all their loyalty points in one place, and they can avoid having to wait at the checkout line. Because the app creates a genuinely improved experience there is a great incentive for shoppers to use it – the customer gets a better experience and Walmart gets to know more about their customers, improving the offers they can send to the customer in future.
Just launching an app doesn’t bring the online experience closer to the in-store experience, but providing the customer with an app that enhances the in-store experience – avoiding checkouts for example – can really encourage more omni-channel shoppers to use your stores. Your online and in-store offering to customers don’t need to compete when they can be designed to enhance and improve each other.
Webhelp recently carried out research on online consumer behaviours within the retail Industry. Five hundred UK retail customers were surveyed and we’ve shared the results of this research here. Explore our research in our handy new infographic which outlines our findings in a bit more detail. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think, or get in touch on LinkedIn.