Retailers today are looking to have a presence that covers both online and offline elements of their consumers’ lives.

Many have physical stores that offer a traditional bricks and mortar retail environment, as well as an online presence that offers the brand experience, combined with convenience and quick access products and services.

Customers frequently cross these borders, using different touchpoints to carry out research, browse items and make purchasing decisions.

Therefore as a retailer, connecting the online and offline elements of your business can give you a greater insight into customer behaviours. By taking an omnichannel approach, better decisions can be made and an enhanced customer experience can be delivered.

Why do people shop in store?

With ecommerce offering such a convenient way of completing purchases, why do people still head to stores?

A lot of the time, customers want reassurance around a purchasing decision. They naturally want to buy products that are exactly in line with their needs and requirements first time around. Without seeing the product in question and getting a ‘real-life’ sense for it, some customers are reluctant to purchase.

This is all about context. It doesn’t necessarily apply to purchasing a pair of sports socks, but would apply to buying a sports car for example.

Therefore having a consistent message is important. If you have specialists in store than can advise on purchasing decisions, make this clear on your website. Or alternatively, following a purchase in-store, a follow up email could be sent out with details of relevant items that could be purchased online.

Negative online shopping experiences could also see people returning to the tried and tested way of shopping and heading to stores. Nobody likes having incorrect products being shipped or delays for example, so avoiding hassle can play its part in consumer decisions about where and how to shop.

Crossing channels

If you want to better integrate your online and offline interactions, you need to cross this gap in a consistent and effective when it comes to what you deliver.

According to research from Kibo Software, 94% of consumers carry out online research before heading to a store. That means that many store visitors will have a strong notion of what they want before they even pass through your doors.

Having a great website with a fantastic design is important in its own right, as is having an exciting offering in store. But if you can meld online and offline for customers and provide them with an experience that covers all they need, you can boost your chances of a sale.

How might this be achieved? As an example, if you have a live inventory facility on your website for each of your stores, a customer can decide whether they’re going to head to your bricks and mortar store. This can be achieved by integrating stock and pricing between ecommerce websites, marketplaces and the backoffice ERP.

If they head to a store in the hope that a product will be in stock and it’s not, that’s a negative customer experience that can be hard to recover from.

Equally, if your customers are searching for an item to see if it’s in store and it’s not, your site could offer them alternatives that are in stock. That way you increase the chances of them progressing along the customer journey.

According to the same research from Kibo Software, 81% of consumers said they have looked up inventory on a retailer’s website before visiting the store. Perhaps more importantly though, 80% are less likely to visit a store if a website doesn’t have information on what it has in stock.

Doing more with Data

Collecting customer data in store can be so advantageous. If you can collect an email address or help them set up a customer account with you, it becomes far easier to develop realistic customer profiles.

Once a customer profile takes shape, intelligent, contextualised email marketing techniques can be utilised. For example, if the weather’s sunny and you have items that may be of interest due to this, you can send out emails to customers highlighting relevant offers. Or perhaps product recommendations can be made based on previous purchases.

It’s all about gaining a better understanding of what your customers want from you and identifying the best way of delivering this.

Predictive analytics and other capabilities afforded by the internet of things can allow you to better identify how products are being used and what may be of interest moving forwards.

Get the Tech right

Having an intelligent ecommerce platform can make it easier to align the online and offline elements of your business.

At Williams Commerce, we’re helping dozens of retailers deliver omnichannel experiences.  We can offer a consultative approach to enable smooth, effective omnichannel ecommerce. We also have deep technical experience implementing backoffice integrated systems that allows businesses to accelerate online growth and improve operational efficiency.

Get in touch with our team of experts today and see how we can help you meet the needs of your retail customers.