Our recent YouGov research revealed that around 10% of customers admit to buying products online using their phone whilst still in-store. This is a customer who is in a store looking at a product and buying the same item online before even leaving. Just ten per cent may not sound significant, but it demonstrates that some customers are happily blending the in-store and online experience and are not ashamed to use the facilities of a retailer and then order elsewhere.
What we are really seeing here is what those in the customer service industry call omnichannel retail. This is when the customer experience should be consistent and exceptional, regardless of the channel used, which naturally means that a retailer offering great omnichannel service doesn’t discriminate between online or offline customers.
The reality is that some retailers have built fantastic online experiences and not reflected this in-store and some provide a fantastic in-store experience with less of a focus on online. It’s actually quite rare to find a true omnichannel experience where, regardless of how you interact with the brand, it’s always a fantastic experience.
So how can executives building a CX strategy really address this question? How can they ensure that the online experience drives more customers into their stores and a great experience in-store guides the customer to the online site for that retailer and not just the lowest online price for the same product? There is extensive research demonstrating that customers who shop both online and in-store are much more valuable to brands than those who only shop online or in-store, so how can brands nurture these customers?
I believe that retailers need to take omnichannel more seriously than ever before. Retail today requires a relationship with the customer, not just a transaction. The online experience should feature intelligent advice in just the same way as visiting a store. Customers want to be able ask questions about a product. Likewise, the in-store experience should feature greater personalisation, just like the online experience. Retailers need to build a connection with the customer that lasts for years and not just focus on making an individual sale.
If I were to describe how I believe the experience should be for customers both on the High Street and online then I would use words such as personal, expert, helpful, and enjoyable. This should describe all interactions no matter which channel is used. Retailers managing to achieve this experience both online and in-store should see increased conversion rates, up-sales, basket value, loyalty and advocacy. It goes almost without saying that this harmony of channels also increases the customer experience for all customers no matter which channel they prefer to use.
To make this work, the focus should be on interactions with the customer – real conversations. Consider the effect of a positive conversation in-store, it increases the chance of the customer making a purchase and remaining loyal to the brand. The same is true online, but usually customers are left to find their own information from FAQs or calling a contact centre. Why not create a system of digital sales assistance so online customers are helped by real people too?
It is possible to apply logic to the online system so customers are helped at the most appropriate time – and not in a way that badgers them when they are just browsing. By studying who they are, what they are looking for, and how they are behaving it is possible to intervene using a chatbot or a human agent where it seems that there is an attractive opportunity to help. It is possible to use analytics and decision management systems to help decide on the right time to intervene.
The ideal scenario is to blend virtual and human sales assistance so chatbots can provide immediacy and scale, and human assistants can offer one-to-one help and advice where needed. This dramatic improvement in the online experience will not only improve how online shoppers experience the brand, it is likely to drive more online shoppers into the stores and vice versa.
The research found that at least a third of customers still use a voice call when reaching out to a brand, so an improvement in online experience is no magic bullet. This needs to be part of a holistic strategy to improve the contact centre, the online experience, and the in-store experience with each channel supporting the other.
Omnichannel is no longer just a corporate strategy for the customer experience experts; it is now a customer expectation.
If you’d like to find out about how to create great omnichannel customer experiences or find out about Webhelp’s smart online sales assistance solutions get it touch… E: firstname.lastname@example.org