In-store retail is still alive and well, but there’s no lack of online shopping statistics that shows the future of e-commerce is gaining speed at a rapid rate. In time, e-commerce will overtake in-store retail for certain products and industries. The future of e-commerce means the intent of “shopping” will primarily mean online.
One of the ways online shopping will evolve into simply “shopping” will be the crossover of benefits of in-store shopping to the e-commerce experience. Brands should focus on the changing needs and wants of their evolving audience. While trends are a good forecast to help develop strategy, it’s truly understanding key consumers that help brands grow and stay profitable. Here’s a simplified list of shopper benefits and challenges for both the in-store and online shopping experience.
Benefits of in-store shopping:
- Ability to touch and experience the product
- Sales assistance
- Immediate gratification
- No shipping costs
Challenges of in-store shopping:
- Items out of stock
- Crowded parking lots and stores
Benefits of shopping online:
Challenges of shopping online:
- Difficult return policy
- Delayed shipping or shipping costs
- Unfulfilled expectations
Successful brands are bringing the in-store benefits to the e-commerce experience to make way for the future of online shopping.
In-Store Shopping Experience
Although the ability to touch and experience products in-store is one of the biggest allures for shoppers, the ease of shipping and returns with certain brands have made this a competitive advantage for online retailers as well.
For example, the hospitality industry has embraced VR to show potential guests the experience of staying on property. By giving the user a chance to step into the experience, it provides a more detailed perspective. it also allows the person to feel excited about planning their next trip. Seeing is believing! Although this isn’t the traditional buyer experience, hotel brands still need to sell their amenities.
Clothing companies have also improved the online experience by providing 360-degree visuals of clothing to see how it looks from all angles. Brands like Rent the Runway include user-generated images right on the product pages. This is in addition to publishing customer reviews. This helps customers assess not only how the article of clothing will look on a model, but on the average person as well.
Brands like Red Bull feature their inventory in different lifestyle shoots to align with their overall messaging strategy. Loyal customers buy into the brand of what a product represents. As an example, the food and beverage industry has seen an influx of health and wellness trends that have helped pace the marketing of their respective brands. They’ve also organized pop-up events to create buzz, heighten brand visibility, and provide consumers an in-store experience in a different way.
Importance of Customer Service
The customer service is the number one deciding factor for many brands that determines consumer loyalty. This requires structured hiring and training programs. It involves manager audits. The customer journey doesn’t stop after purchase. The follow-up is sometimes just as important as resolving the problem.
Do market research on how your audience wants to receive help. Is it a chatbox with immediate answers? Is it via email or social media? When a potential customer has a question, response time is key. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become increasingly popular among brands who want to use it to remedy this need. However, brands must keep in mind that actual human responses are welcomed, and at times preferred. Does this mean adding a customer service branch to your company? By reaching out to customers in various, virtual ways, they will still feel taken care of by the brand.
Answering Immediate Gratification
Modern society is designed for immediate gratification. We can book a flight, order luggage, and call a ride to the airport all through the power of smartphones in a matter of minutes. This mindset is also why we want items we’ve ordered to arrive yesterday.
Certain clothing and home goods stores offer in-store pickup, which combines both the in-store and online worlds. Consumers can order what they want online and pick up at the store closest to them. This is a value if there is a need for exchange or return – it can be taken care of more quickly onsite.
Additionally, beauty brands have begun customizing the online shopping experience through subscription boxes. According to Forbes, the subscription e-commerce market (not only beauty), has increased by more than 100% per year over the past five years. Subscription boxes allow loyal customers to pick and choose what they wish to receive and they have it arrive on a monthly schedule. Although there is not immediate gratification, there is still the pre-agreed upon expectation by both brand and customer.
Competitive Shipping Cost
Overnight delivery or two-day shipping without exorbitant costs are valued by consumers. Free delivery or small delivery fees from brands like Eat24 and even local grocery stores are making it easier for people who want their food delivered straight to their door.
Brands that promote free shipping during high shopping seasons attract new customers and keep their current, loyal ones happy. Of course, many times the free shipping is inclusive when there is a minimum dollar amount purchase made, but consumers are buying and will continue to buy into the convenience.
The bottom line is successful brands are well-attuned to the shift of shopping online. It’s necessary to answer the consumer needs and wants, but also, begin to anticipate them as well. In the not-so-far future, e-commerce shopping will be the majority norm with in-store purchases coming in second.