Online or offline, to your customers you are one brand, one company.
Big changes are in store (pun intended). The biggest trends in business today – mobile, social, relevance – are poised to change the in-store shopping experience dramatically.
In the past, people researched products online, where they had access to the most information, including opinions from other customers like them. They then went to the store to try out the product before buying in-store, where buying was easiest: no shipping fees, instant gratification, etc. But today, buying online is as convenient as (or even more convenient than) buying in-store. Many people now use retail locations as demo sites, testing products offline before buying later online. The problem? Customers leaving stores to buy online don't necessarily buy from the same retailer.
There are many benefits to shopping online that are unavailable or inconvenient to access in stores. Retailers should empower customers to do everything they can on your website inside your brick-and-mortar store to keep them out of the hands of competitors.
Here are a few capabilities customers have online that you should make available in-store.
Note that many of these tools will require in-store Internet access, via a mobile experience or kiosks, for example. Make it as simple as possible for customers to find the information they need using these tools. Include a barcode or QR code scanner in your mobile experience or kiosk, so customers can quickly look up the specific product they seek.
"It's time to stop differentiating between the online and the offline world," Philipp Schindler, vice president for northern and central Europe at Google, told the World Retail Congress. "Your customers don't see it that way – everything is integrated." Customers aren't distinguishing between each of your hundreds of retail locations, or between your stores and your e-commerce site.
To them, you are one brand, one company. View your business that way, too, and provide the same capabilities in-store as online.
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Sam Decker is founder and CEO of Mass Relevance, the leading enterprise social curation company. He speaks and consults on digital growth strategy, based on years of experience in technology and social markets. He has written two books on word-of-mouth marketing and is an award-winning blogger (www.deckermarketing.com). As former chief marketing officer of Bazaarvoice, the market leader in hosted social commerce applications that drive sales, Sam worked to help brands present the right user-generated content at the right time in the purchase path, bringing real value to the consumer and the business. Prior to Bazaarvoice he drove Dell's customer segmentation, their customer-centricity strategy, and led Dell's consumer website, building Dell.com into the largest consumer e-commerce site at $3.5 billion in annual sales.
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