In the past, retailers used their websites as little more than glorified business cards - a name, phone number, address and an 'About Us' section was pretty much the extent of available information. Selling products online was a nice-to-have feature at most.
It's a different story these days though, as websites become an increasingly popular way to sell. According to a recent consumer survey on shopping habits, 67% of Millennials and 56% of Generation X consumers prefer to search and purchase online rather than in-store. Because of this shift in consumer preference, many retail websites now offer a more engaging experience online than they do in person. So much so in fact, that a quarter of all survey shoppers questioned said they feel 'let-down' when they visit a store in person, even if they like the brand online.
Some could argue then that traditional shopping is losing out to online. But, rather than seeing it as a battle between the two, opportunistic retailers are seeking to make the most of the shift by bringing more technology in-store - something we talked about in our Top Retail Trends for 2017 blog.
Here are some of the ways that are customers are beginning to enjoy the best of both worlds:
1. 'Click and Collect'
'Click and Collect' is a great example of the two working together: buy online then pick-up at the store. It helps to boost online sales, but it also reminds customers of the existence of the physical store - and can even encourage additional in-store purchases on the day.
2. Free WiFi and QR Codes
Retailers used to discourage customers from using their devices in-store to look for better deals. But, free WiFi and QR codes alongside products shows a change of heart. Retailers now appreciate that many customers prefer to research online rather than ask an assistant, so as long as their pricing is competitive, they can boost sales and save on support costs by embracing it.
3. Retail apps
Retail apps are increasingly being used to enhance a customers in-store buying journey. These online tools provide several value adds to a customer's physical shopping experience, like additional product information, product reviews and alternative payment options. Many of these apps also sync with iBeacons - a Bluetooth technology that enables stores to push messages to smartphones - and prompt awareness of nearby products or offers.
4. Interactive screens
Interactive screens make it easier for customers to search, research and order. Theyre also a great way to show customers the entire range of stock - meaning that stores can downsize rather than close. In some cases, these screens are even being used as interactive storefronts, so passers by can browse and shop 24/7 - even when the shop is closed.
5. High tech changing rooms
We're also seeing product specific uses of in-store technology, with some clothes stores introducing tablets in changing rooms. Being able to order different sizes, styles or colours from behind the curtain, and have them brought to you, puts an end to that irritating '5 items maximum' rule. Pretty handy, huh?
In today's fast-paced society, keeping a close eye on your online and offline sales has never been more important. Fortunately, apps like Shopify - which can be connected to the 9 Spokes smart dashboard - enable you to track online and offline sales and help you to ensure there's adequate stock for both channels. So even if your business isnt quite ready to merge online and offline in-store, it's easy for you to do so behind the scenes.
Until next time,
The 9 Spokes Team