The online ecommerce juggernaut may seem invincible, but players like Flipkart, Snapdeal, or Amazon have a major Achilles heel. Research shows that exceptional customer service is the number one factor influencing how much a consumer trusts a company, and 75% of consumerssay they have done business with a company because of positive customer service experienced in the past and the experience with buying process
Retailers hoping to fight online giants will have plenty of ammunition at their disposal if they use this insight to up their in-store game. Brick-and-mortar retailers can counter razor-thin margins offered by ecommerce sites through superior customer service. But first, they have to listen to what shoppers need and want, and use this data to propel their customers beyond the lone factor of low prices.
Here are 6 strategies that may help conventional brick and mortar store owners compete with ecommerce sites:
Know your customer:
It is now more important than ever for retailers to take a genuine effort in understanding their customers. I’d suggest that you initiate programs that help you know your buyer and his preferences. Some effective ideas include capturing customer data through CRM practices, a loyalty program, social media strategies, etc. Online companies score over conventional store owners, because they know so much about their customers. But with a little imagination and ingenuity, this information can be collected and used effectively. In fact, large retail companies have already started to implement strategies around this idea.
Large retail companies have data but they have to use this information to communicate and personalize their relationship with their customers. Personal information about buyers is probably the biggest weapon in their arsenal that could help them handle competition from online companies. Retailers, large and small, can use this data to send information about offers, receive feedback and engage customers. With tools like email, SMS, missed call, apps, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, implement such ideas would be a cakewalk.
Blend the good aspects of online and in-store shopping:
Imagine you are the owner of a retail store and a customer checks in asking for a particular material of cloth. Being an earnest businessman, you inform the person that although the material isn’t in stock, you can get it for him in two days time. Problem solved, you’d say? But wait! There’s more that you can do. You can direct this customer to your Facebook page and tell him that he can choose a color of his choice and inbox the preference to your page. You, in turn would see to it that the chosen color is set aside for the customer. This can then continue as a tradition wherein your customer can order from home and yet assure the quality of the product before buying. Another instance where online and offline shopping can be integrated is when retailers blend in-store shopping and online payment. Apple has already marched towards this end. iPhone customers can scan bar codes of products and purchase them through their Apple Pay app.
Enhance the Shopping Experience:
Installing mobile charging pods, keeping children entertained with a separate kids’ play area, matching the customers pace, etc. can go a long way in enhancing customer experience. The last aspect is particularly important. It is more than likely that your in-store customer has already researched about the product before entering your place. He is already aware of the different models available online and has probably chosen your store because yours was the lowest price of all and also because he’d like to be sure about the quality of the product. Understanding such customers and creating a positive experience for them is important.
Service first then sales:
I recently had the misfortune of purchasing a product through a teleshopping network. Whilst everyone in the company was happy to sell me their product, none of them shared the same enthusiasm when I had to complain about the product quality. If I had taken the pain of shopping through a conventional brick and mortar shop, I could at least visit the place and get the problem sorted. But it’s been a month now, and I am yet to speak to a ‘customer relations person’ who could own up to the problem and offer a solution. This is where brick and mortar shops can easily outshine their online counterparts. By demonstrating to your customers that their complaints matter, you’ve not only earned their trust, but also given them the satisfaction that there lies a solution to their problem.
Webrooming refers to the process of researching products online and then visiting the store to purchase them. A report by Merchant Warehouse estimates that around 69% of customers with a smart phone, webroom. And to put this trend into numbers, Forrester Research estimates that this trend is likely to result in $1.8 trillion in sales by 2017. There are several reasons why customers prefer webrooming as against showrooming. Merchant Warehouse says, 47% of them don’t prefer paying for shipping, 46% wanted to touch and feel the product before buying, 36% of them wanted the store to match the online price and around 37% wanted it to be easy to return the product back to the store if they didn’t like it. So have a great presence online and on social media and run good offers there incentivizing the customer with coupons to use it offline.
Even in the age of online shopping, consumers want to be able to trust retailers before they buy a product. Retailers can take advantage of this factor by keeping customer engagement at the heart of their strategizing.