The reconstruction of retail: Can the in-store experience be replicated online?
The way we shop has changed significantly in the last decade. The rise of e-commerce has been accelerated by the pandemic, and we are witnessing a considerable shift in consumer behavior. This poses a challenge for many retail brands, especially those who have invested time, assets and resources into building and perfecting the in-store customer experience. Brick and mortar stores still possess their own draw, but it is undeniable that e-commerce is the dominating force in the retail landscape. It can be difficult to translate the in-store sales journey across multiple channels, and brands have had to engage in new omnichannel strategies to target consumers and retain business. Delivering a consistent and customer driven experience across all platforms is essential for businesses to succeed in the future.
“Many businesses with a previously strong physical footprint had to pivot marketing strategies to prioritize digital channels”. - Andrea Giacomini
Sales associates play an essential role in the customer shopping journey - they can tailor a personalized experience that provides shoppers with excellent quality service. The associate helps keep customers informed on relevant information, provide recommendations and have knowledge on promotions and offers. The digitization of the shopping experience demands this level of customer service be converted across various platforms. Brands need to find a way to utilize the services provided in store and apply them via online channels. Adding personalization to e-commerce through data curation and monitoring customer behaviors can help brands elevate the online experience, but is it enough to replace the human element that sales associates can offer?
Brands need to be able to provide first-class customer service - something which can be difficult to manage in the digital realm. Consumers expect the same level of attention and detail that they receive in store. Conversational commerce offers a solution to the online obstacles. It can be viewed as the intersection of technology, retail and customer service, “delivering convenience, personalization and decision support”. It allows the consumer to engage with both human representatives and AI across various social and messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, all at their own convenience. It enables a conversation between the customer and the brand representative, something that can ultimately facilitate sales and surpass consumer expectations.
The application of omnichannel retail may also help brands address consumer needs and help blend the physical and personal facets of retail. Indeed, employing different channels as a method of contacting customers, providing relevant promotions and enabling sales has the potential to provide an even more comprehensive approach to customer service compared to those within a physical store. Consumer behavior and demand varies based on a myriad of factors, and omnichannel allows brands to meet these needs and accommodate them in a flexible manner. It also provides retailers with the opportunity to test new strategies that will engage customers. Whilst the importance of brick and mortar stores cannot be understated, it is clear that with the right approach and adoption of in-store techniques, digital retailers have the opportunity to provide a customized, seamless shopping experience for buyers.