For years, shops have been the places where sales are made. Deals are done. Bargains are found. And perhaps most importantly, customer service is provided. Sure, people have been online shopping now for well over a decade but for most, the customer service experience all came from going to a physical store and speaking with an actual person. Whilst for many businesses, this high level of customer service is still crucial, we are seeing a need for businesses to evolve and offer a seamless experience whether you are in-store, on your mobile or searching on a more traditional desktop.
Mobile is growing
As the number of users researching products on a mobile increases year on year (now more than 50% of people are searching on a mobile device according to a Google statement and is supported by this research piece by Smart Insights) it is clear that customers who visit a store are far better prepared and educated than they were 10 years ago. They have done their homework. They know what product they want, what the price is and what everyone else’s price is too. That means that the people working on the shop floor, dealing with customers on a day to day basis also need to know this information.
Previously the shop assistant was the expert. Someone came into store, interested in a product and they relied on the shop assistant (or manager, or owner) to provide them with all the information they needed to make an informed purchase decision. That simply is not the case anymore. People are doing their own research at home and they have access to so much information that keeping up is not enough. Your front line staff need to know what the customer knows and more.
If a customer comes into store having done some research online and has an item in their basket, your front line staff member needs to know all about that product, where to find it as well as being able to close out the sale if required. Google’s VP of U.S. Sales, Retail and Telecom, John McAteer describes this seamless interaction as a ‘non-line’ world with no difference between on and off line when it comes to the customer experience.
Think With Google recently posted a great case study from Best Buy in the US. Historically a very traditional bricks and mortar business, customers used to go to a Best Buy store to find the right product at the right price, however they have seen a huge shift with regards to what customers are now looking for when they come in-store.
Best Buy are a company that have moved with the times to meet these new demands from their customers. One of the biggest shifts has been the creation of in-depth buying guides across a wide range of products including specs, images and product details as well as creating awesome supporting video content.
Best Buy have moved to embrace the ‘non-line’ world, creating an experience that is seamless between store and online. Whilst a lot of research is now done online before a purchase, store visits have not declined; it’s just the questions that are being asked are different, more detailed.
Best Buy’s decision to add a store pick up link – allowing customers to buy online and pick up in store has also reaped dividends. With an increase in visits to the website of 44% from early experiments and local inventory ads driving over 1 million store visits between November and December 2015, Best Buy seem to have really taken the non-line world and run with it to great success.
What should you be doing?
Whilst this is a very specific example from a successful e-commerce website in the US, there are plenty of takeaways we can pull out of this case study.
It starts with a detailed look at every possible touch point a customer has with your business. From your desktop and mobile sites, to your Ads on all platforms (on and offline) to the in-store experience. Take a look at these and see where you excel. What is it that customers love about your business and the experience they have when they engage with your brand? That is the thing that you need to ensure is prominent at every touch point. If you are known for outstanding in-store customer service, how do you transfer this to the online experience? Live chat? Facebook messenger? In-depth product guides created by your staff? Video guides?
Vice versa, if you have an outstanding website with lots of information and a great UX, how do you make sure that people visiting your store have a similar experience? Make sure your staff are trained and know every product on your site, all the specs and more so you can add value when people visit you in store.
Instead of thinking in silos about your on and offline experience, put the customer at the heart of your marketing strategy and build your experience around that. Once you figure out how to meet customer expectations at every stage, then you will be in a much better position to deliver a seamless, cross-channel experience. McAteer concludes his interview by saying ‘The businesses that can innovate, truly understand today’s consumer journey, and address consumers’ needs at every touchpoint are going to find themselves in a position to win.’ – we couldn’t agree more!