It’s no secret that ecommerce is booming and that the future of retail continues to trend toward the digital space. We’ve all seen the statistics about that space: $225 billion in revenue in 2012, with projections nearly doubling that figure to $491.5 billion by 2018.
Clearly, businesses need to focus on their ecommerce efforts to ensure they get their piece of the money pie.
Not that retailers should put all their eggs in the e-commerce basket. Brick-and-mortar is not going anywhere (those buildings are pretty heavy), so retailers should instead implement a more integrated strategy that allows both channels to complement each other.
Enter omni-channel commerce, the blend between digital and retail sales efforts. This approach will become increasingly important over the next few years, so retailers should consider implementing the following three crucial elements and build out their digital strategies now.
Brick-and-mortar stores are usually at a disadvantage compared to ecommerce when it comes to shopping personalization. When customers physically walk through your doors, do you already have a profile built that knows what products they have browsed, added to their basket and purchased (or perhaps abandoned), so that you can customize their shopping experience to increase the likelihood that they will buy? Most retailers do not.
With advancements in beacon technology, however, we will soon see shoppers checking in with their phones at the door and receiving personalized discounts/offers based on where they are standing in the store and what products they are looking at. This technology will allow retailers to start capturing valuable in-store shopping behavioral data, link it with the customers' online shopping profiles and start truly customizing the in-store/online shopping experience.
2. In-store ecommerce
It's important to let customers know that you may have other colors or sizes of a product that are not currently available in the store. One great way to do that is to display your website on in-store computers or tablets that customers can access. This allows them to try on a product in your store and see online what other colors or styles are available.
The retailer can thus display a larger catalog of products without having to physically stock them. Free shipping to the store is a must, to give the retailer another opportunity to upsell customers when they return to pick up the item.
At any given point in time, you can walk into a retail store and see customers on their smartphones, comparing prices with online competitors. Online shopping has driven us to strive to get the best deal, so why not participate to try and win their business?
Many large retailers are able to "price-match" any other offer found on the web. For small businesses, this isn’t always possible when competing against big box stores. So, instead of engaging in the price war, let customers in your store know that there are other incentives, discounts, free gifts, etc. available if they are thinking of leaving to buy the same product elsewhere.
One way to proceed is through geo-targeted mobile ads delivered to consumers within or around your store. This technology allows you to “cast a geo-net” around a certain location and serve ads to mobile phones that offer in-store coupons or sales -- all designed to keep consumers from leaving empty-handed.
As consumers adapt, it’s the responsibility of the retailer to remain adaptable himself (or herself), or risk losing a potential customer to a competitor. An omni-channel retail strategy provides the flexibility needed to enhance the consumer experience both in-store and online, setting the retailer up for long-term success.