It is true that with online shopping rapidly increasing in the past decade, overall consumer spending has been up but foot traffic in stores has been down. But this can’t be attributed only because of the option of e-commerce. The educated mass is gradually becoming more and more digitally and technologically equipped because it penetrates their lifestyle at every point. This amps up the need for physical stores to give consumers something that can’t be given online: commit to being recreational and experiential that would give customers a truly unique and unforgettable journey in the stores, technologically.
So, brands can now let out a sigh of relief because their brick-and-mortar stores would stay relevant (and open) in the digitally transformed age. There was a brief stint where brands were sceptical that the digitisation of their business would make physical stores irrelevant, but this can be avoided if the clever usage of omni-channel retailing is strategically applied to their business models because physical stores are very much crucial to a business.
Now, walking the path of customers in and within the vicinity of a store, let’s take a look at how at each point, with real-life industry examples, can an omni-experience enhance the overall shopping journey, successfully retaining customers and even luring them back to the stores in future.
Never before has the quote “first impressions last long” been so true in a situation such as the window display of a store. The store front is the first point of interaction between customer and the brand, and it’s of utmost importance that the brands nail the idea of an omni-experience at a store’s window. A common, but successful, method of interacting with the customer through the store as well as online would be by letting them know about the various social media platforms that they are using or websites links where customers can take a good look at their collection (and even purchase) by putting stickers on the window to indicate so. Often customers are passing by store windows in a rush to get some place but are attracted to your products in window. For example, a subtle way would be to let them know that they can still stay connected with the brand on their social media accounts and successfully establish a relationship with the new customer. A QR code would help enhance this relationship just in case the customers don’t look up for some other brand online. OVS, did so successfully, and their sites and social media accounts were found to be easily searchable and mobile friendly as well. Making a store front virtually interactive is also a great way to establish strong relationship with the digitally knowledgeable customers, like Ray-ban did with the virtual mirror in 2008 and Kate Spade collaboration with eBay Inc. on a virtual store front which allowed customers to see life-sized products on display.
While store displays are a great way to lure the customers in, the real purchase happens inside the store. Store check-ins are the best and most common way that helps brands gain attention from potential customers and also trust, if their in-store service is impeccable, in a way indicating that the customer is doing some kind of shopping even they’re just browsing. When customers “check- in” at your store, especially through applications like Foursquare, firstly, they are sharing your location. Secondly, from a brand’s point of view, customers can be “made” to check-in to allow them some kind of incentive, so that people in their network can also know about the store. Thirdly, the customers can then see which of the celebrities/influencers have previously checked-in and perhaps even read feedbacks/reviews from other customers. Lastly, if they like a product they could even share it on social media. So if the word-of-mouth, which an increasing number of consumers rely on, can gain a store more brand visibility and trust, that’s a successful implementation of an omni-experience on an in-store level.
Another major point to be noted would be brand’s mobile commerce, that breaks the long queues that customers have to stay in order to make a purchase. When an online purchase is only a click away, stores should compete and stay on par with the speed of a customers “check-out cart” by using mobile payments which makes the shopping experience of a customer seem like a breeze, like Oasis did with PayPal, or even how Nordstrom and Apple do with their mobile point-of-sales device.
Also, a growing trend can be seen with the pick-up/return/exchange of products in store that were purchased online. This is a great way to not only increase foot traffic but ensure that the customers get the product correctly the second time. Many brands are doing this, notably House of Fraser, Ltd. that sends the customers a notification (after a virtual check-in) that their product is ready to be exchanged and hand-delivered to them inside the store.
In an oversaturated market place like the fashion industry, it’s nearly impossible for a single product to stand out, and even a great product cannot sell itself if no one knows about it. Even if the customer sees a wonderful store display, experiences a great in-store service, they still might not make the purchase if they don’t understand the product or don’t trust the brand enough, and this usually happens via research about the product online. Thus, complete transparency about the products has to be consistent and coherent across all platforms. To further make sure that consumers understand the brand and it’s product, flexibility in changing languages is also important like many brands already do including Burberry, that not only changes languages automatically (by analysing your cookies) but also the currency you’re mostly likely to buy their products with. Also, inside their massive 27,000 sq. ft flagship store in London, the store is wrapped in full-length screens which constantly displays collections, runway shows, and even mirrors. QR codes also give swift access to the brand’s website which the consumers can easily browse like Geox does by empowering their customers with the knowledge about their innovative fabric ‘respira’ on their website via QR codes.
Since the inception of “selfie” the digital world is flooded with billions of fitting room pictures uploaded by consumers. Brands would gain a lot by enhancing lighting conditions in fittings rooms so that customers can take beautiful “mirror selfies” with the beautiful products they’d like to buy or add to their wishlist. While some brands have sales staff act like guards and prevent consumers from taking pictures with the products, Diesel introduced the Diesel cam in 2010 where the customers could take a picture on the interactive installation and share on Facebook directly. This is a word-of-mouth technique, and brands would do well business-wise by understand the power of consumers’ opinions on social media.
All in all, physical stores need not be a dying trend if only brands could understand and adjust their business models to fit the digitally educated consumer base they are serving to. These are only few of the success stories that we have in this analysis article. It would be wise to note that not always do the brands get it right and may lose customers because of negligence while carrying out an omni-experience strategy in stores. Now that we have established how to get an omni- experience in store right, check out our full report with more case studies that also explore brands that nailed it and those that didn’t quite get the omni-experience strategy right. The report also has more details on how through each method can a brand capitalise and further increase their sales in store.
For more on the omni-channel experience, touchpoint combinations and best case studies, download your exclusive copy of the full research.