It’s 2019 and there are so many ways to shop online and offline. Some people prefer online shopping because they can stay up late, lounge in the bathtub, and make their purchases through Instagram, while they’re scrolling through their feed, whereas others enjoy the physical experience of interacting with a product in store before making their purchase.
In order to stay competitive in the current market, retailers must embrace both their brick-and-mortar stores and their online ones by bridging the gap between them. Here’s just a few key strategies you can use to perfectly align your online and offline presence—and strengthen both.
AN INTRO TO OMNICHANNEL ECOMMERCE
Omnichannel eCommerce isn’t not only the future, it’s the present. In order to align your brick-and-mortar store with your eCommerce website the investment in Omnichannel eCommerce is absolutely necessary! What exactly does this mean? Omnichannel eCommerce simply means marketing and selling through multiple channels. And as a result, bringing together the physical and the digital while providing a cohesive and consistent experience.
Omnichannel marketing shouldn’t just focus on reaching as many people as possible. It must also pay special attention to where and how audiences overlap. Consider which channels your target audience/customers are using and how they’re being influenced by these overlapping channels. Staying active in these channels is essential for marketing in and of itself, as well as joining your online store with your brick-and-mortar one. By staying active and relevant on previously trusted channels you continue to close the gap between online and physical stores.
Omnichannel retailing works. A Harvard study found that 73% of shoppers used multiple channels and that omnichannel channel shoppers are worth more. For starters, they spend 4% more than their single channel shoppers, and spent 9% more in brick-and-mortars compared to other shopping destinations. The study also indicated that omnichannel shoppers are more loyal—they’re 23% more likely to make a repeat purchase, as well as recommend the brand to family and friends.
Another facet of omnichannel retailing is “omnichannel returns.” Although the majority of online purchases are returned via postal mail, returning goods at brick and mortars, or at options like Amazon drop off locations, is becoming increasingly popular. Bridge the gap between your online store and brick and mortar by offering the option for in store returns, regardless if they purchased online or in-store. This will bring your customers into your store while still allowing them to shop online.
SELECT AN OMNICHANNEL ECOMMERCE PLATFORM
First and foremost, you’re going to need an eCommerce platform that can facilitate omnichannel commerce. For instance, a platform that supports sales through social media, like Facebook or Instagram. Or add ons that facilitate omnichannel marketing, like the Shopify plugin Omnisend Email Marketing & SMS. This particular plugin initiates contact, such as greetings, abandoned shopping cart recovery, or order confirmations, with customers across a variety of channels (email, text message, Facebook, etc.).
INTEGRATE YOUR POS SYSTEM
It is critical that your POS be consistent across both your brick and mortar and your online store.
“In today’s competitive retail environment, it is so important to have an omnichannel retail management platform if you’re selling through different channels,” says Emily Fanning, content marketing manager at Springboard Retail. “Today’s consumer demands a seamless experience. Your POS software and eCommerce platform must be integrated to provide you with a holistic view of your customers, no matter where or when they shop.”
In essence, a favorable POS system integrates offline and online sales information. A cohesive POS system collects, stores, and illustrates sales information in one place, providing a comprehensive picture of your business. This data can be either on-site or cloud-based, depending on which POS you choose.
On-site POS is installed locally on your business or store’s computer/server. Because this software is installed it does not require the internet to run it. Comparatively, cloud-based POS is contingent on the internet and is subscription based by a provider.
Shopify can serve as both your eCommerce platform and POS system, offering both software (cloud-based) and hardware. Earlier this spring, Shopify released a suite of three new devices: Shopify Tap & Chip Reader, Dock, and Retail Stand. The aim of this hardware was to provide retailers a brick-and-mortar resource that integrated flawlessly with the Shopify POS software, as to connect the online and offline.
Shopify’s new suite
Another popular web-based option for POS/platform integration is Square, which can be hosted via BigCommerce or independently of a platform.
Square realized the need for a cohesive eCommerce experience/solution, and as a result they introduced Square Online Store and improved Square Retail. Square Online Store serves as a platform for your Online store and integrates perfectly with Square POS, including that of your brick-and-mortar. This integration allows business owners to create custom customer profiles that detail their online and offline purchases, as well as manage online and offline orders, returns, and inventory.
INVEST IN PIM
Product Information Management (PIM) software provides consistent product content and data across all sales channels. PIM acts as a single place to collect, manage, and update product information.
“Having multiple sales channels to take care of, regardless of our business niche, requires constant updates on your product information,” says Einar Augedal, CEO of Bluestone PIM. “Especially if your SKUs come in thousands and spreadsheets are no longer up to the task. What can help with solving this issue, is scalable Product Information Management (PIM) software. When it comes to solving the pain of low-quality product information, PIM has no equals. Implement it to see an increase in customer satisfaction, a decrease in cart abandonment, and elimination of product inconsistencies.”
Graphic illustrating how Bluestone PIM works with your business. The image also demonstrates how PIM functions in general.
PIM is necessary for any organization trying to expand globally, have a multi-channel presence, and accept multiple currencies. PIM brings together your online store with your brick and mortar by organizing and centralizing all product information.
MAKE SURE YOUR BRICK AND MORTAR EXPERIENCE IS CONSISTENT WITH YOUR ONLINE ONE
Not everyone shops online. Customers often crave the physical experience that’s had in a brick and mortar; they want to touch, feel, try, put on the products they’re considering buying. That’s why once exclusively online brands, like Casper the mattress retailer, opened offline shops. Casper began opening stores where customers can test beds before purchasing them by booking napping sessions.
If your store has both a physical presence and a digital one , be sure to keep experiences consistent.
“[Businesses] need to incorporate UX wisdom in their operations by creating an absolute consistency across all sales channels,” says Audegal. “It doesn’t mean that the experience they serve in each channel must be identical (compare website and printed catalog), but it must be consistent.”
While it is inevitable that your online store will be distinguishable from your physical store, keeping the two aesthetically and functionally consistent with one another will bring them closer together making them less distinguishable to customers. The best way to achieve this consistency by investing in your UX/UI.
DESIGNING A BETTER OVERALL EXPERIENCE
The UX of your eCommerce site can be indicative of the functionality of your brick-and-mortar. Pay attention to user patterns and interactions with your UX in relation to your products, and try to format your offline store based off those findings.