As turbulent as the past two years have been, one lesser consequence of COVID-19 has been the emergence of online shopping. Consumers who otherwise may have never used curbside pickup or online shopping options began using those services regularly out of necessity.
Now, as the world slowly returns to a more stable post-COVID landscape, many consumers who came to appreciate the convenience of online shopping options will likely continue to take advantage of them even when it’s safe to return to stores and restaurants.
In fact, our Customer Online Experience survey from last September (methodology below) found that 68% of the consumers we surveyed would prefer to only or mostly interact via online channels in a post COVID-19 world.
But one thing that’s not going to change is the need for a good customer journey and a positive customer experience, whether your customer is interacting with you face-to-face or across a digital interface. Our COVID-19 Retail Impact survey (methodology below) found that 35% of small businesses were prioritizing the customer experience more since the beginning of COVID-19.
In this article, we’ll look at three tips to help your business deliver a seamless customer experience between your online and offline storefronts.
Just because your customers crave the convenience of an online shopping experience doesn’t negate their desire for quality customer service. You can offer this by making sure that your online storefront has an online live chat interface prominently displayed on your website’s homepage.
You may be worried about trying to keep up with every question that comes along, but automated chatbots are capable of answering the most frequently asked questions such as “What are your hours?” and “How do I make a return?” This will allow your associates to step in only when necessary or when time allows.
How you can give your online store a human presence through chat tools:
Consult with your software provider to determine the best live chat integration tools for your online store. For example, Shopify (one of our Category Leaders for eCommerce) returns more than 50 results for chatbot integrations.
Ask your customer service reps about the most common customer inquiries they field. Then you can program your chatbot tool to automatically answer or redirect some of the most common inquiries like “What is your phone number?” or “I want to make a return.”
Make sure that you have a human monitoring the chat whenever possible to field more complicated questions that the chatbot isn’t able to answer.
Use social media to your advantage. If you have an active Facebook profile for your business, you can use Facebook Messenger as a chatbot and live chat tool.
The key to a seamless shopping experience across online and offline is to include online conveniences in your offline store. For example, something as simple as offering a stationary touchpad display that is connected to your online store can allow customers to browse additional inventory, order a bulky item for delivery, or explore contactless payment options.
When you’re ready to branch out, consider more advanced user experience options like augmented reality. These tools let customers virtually place objects in rooms of their home or get detailed product information by scanning an item with their smartphone.
How you can bring digital conveniences into your physical store:
Invest in touchpad tablets connected to your online store. Employees can carry them as they help customers, and allow them to search for items that may not be in stock. You can also consider a stationary kiosk to let customers use the touchpad on their own without the risk of misuse or theft.
Display QR codes in your physical store that connect to your online store. This approach will allow customers to easily connect to your store and improve their digital experience.
Use an order management system to help streamline your inventory and shipping processes across your online and physical retail storefronts. This allows customers to more easily order and pay in store for at-home delivery.
Consider more advanced tech, like augmented reality, as you become comfortable with in-store technology. AR can assist customers by virtually placing objects in a room, trying on virtual clothes and cosmetics, and more.
Interested in learning more about augmented reality in retail? Check out our introductory guide for small businesses here.
It’s clear that customers want the flexibility to choose between the convenience of online shopping and the human connection of in-store shopping and pickup. That’s why making your customers aware of all the options available to them is the key to a seamless customer experience. Omnichannel marketing can help you achieve this.
Let’s say a customer wants to research a potential purchase from their home but also wants to buy the product in the store and get it in their hands as soon as possible, without having to pay for delivery. By including product information on your site along with messaging about your buy online, pickup in-store options, you have a better chance of completing the sale, giving your business a competitive advantage.
How you can take advantage of omnichannel marketing:
Ensure that your online store is as mobile-friendly as possible since so many online shoppers do their research on mobile devices.
Post helpful information and reviews about your products directly on your eCommerce site. That way, when a potential customer is doing their online research, there’s a better chance they will come to your site organically.
Use an eCommerce platform with a content management feature to help organize and publish helpful content for customers.
Offer curbside and contactless in-store pickup options to make the final step of the purchase process as convenient as possible for your customers.
For more on creating an omnichannel customer experience for your customers, check out our guide on research online, purchase offline optimization.
Hopefully the tips we discussed in this article will help you give your customers a positive and seamless experience however they choose to interact with your business.
GetApp’s Resources hub has more information on preparing your store for the future of retail, from incorporating augmented reality to accepting contactless payments. Here are a few recent articles to start with:
GetApp’s Customer Online Experience survey was conducted in September of 2020. We surveyed more than 500 U.S. consumers to better understand how consumers’ online expectations with service providers have changed post-COVID 19.
We used screening questions to narrow our respondents into those with relevant experience and expertise, and we worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood the meaning and the topic at hand.
GetApp’s COVID-19 Retail Impact survey was conducted in September, 2020 of 429 retail leaders to learn more about consumer expectations, and retailers' responses, plans, and success in the wake of COVID-19. Respondents were screened for their retail leadership experience.