Holiday shopping season is in full swing and your customers are working hard to cross everyone off their shopping lists.
If last year’s eCommerce sales numbers are anything to go by, this means that they’re going to be taking advantage of everything available to them to get the best prices, quality and service possible. In response, many brick and mortar companies with virtual branches are working harder to “get real,” improving their tech offerings and making it easier than ever to comparison shop.
Omnichannel is a big part of this equation, but imagining new applications for existing tech is also vital. Bridging the customer experience gap between in-store and online shopping is more crucial than ever if you hope to attract and hold the attention of your customers when so many other things are demanding a look.
Mobile Means Comparison Shopping and Price Matching
This year, brick and mortar retailers are pledging to price match their online competitors in the hopes of slowing the growing trend of showrooming. This is when a customer goes into a brick-and-mortar store to check out a product in person, then turns around and orders it online. It’s among the most common mobile shopping trends, and it’s making it increasingly difficult for retailers to make a profit.
Instead of losing customers to this practice, major retailers are price-matching Amazon and other eTailers this holiday season. It’s a gamble that could cost a lot and ultimately cut deep into profits, but at the same time it’s also a brilliant tactic. Retailers have long known that shoppers price compare, so why not make it easier? Online shopping trends have made it simple to find the cheapest price on almost any product with virtually no effort, it’s smart that retailers stay ahead of this change in how consumers research products.
Integrating eCommerce and brick and mortar is the future, whether business owners like it or not. That’s why companies like Lowe’s have already designed apps that help shoppers find particular products, why Target has an app that allows users to clip virtual coupons as they browse and why Walmart is dumping a ton of money into eCommerce this year. Price-matching is just the bit of the iceberg sticking out of the water, there’s a lot more you could do to create a better shopping experience with the help of mobile devices.
Other Ways eCommerce is Invading Retail
Besides being a tool for price-matching, smart phones can be used to create a truly personalized shopping experience within a retail environment. An app with predictive AI built in can be used to encourage shoppers to use certain items or present them with coupons as they approach particular products, for example. This would require geofencing and beacon technology that interacts with the phone’s hardware, but it’s a trick already being employed in a few places.
This kind of automated shopping assistant may well be the future of retail. As voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home become more commonplace, customers will expect that their phones can give them the same level of service. Even if your shop doesn’t have a basic AI in the budget, you can at least provide QR codes on product shelves that will take customers to pages with more information about said products and even coupons or price comparisons from other retailers.
The goal of omnichannel and smartphone shopping is to make life easier, so try to think like your customers. What would help them? How can you use technology like barcode scanners, push notifications, apps and the Internet to give visitors the same flexibility they’d have when shopping online? This is what customers really want, which is why competing with eCommerce can be so trying. Now that companies like Amazon.com can get a package to a customer in two days (or even as quickly as an hour or two in some markets), the retail experience has to evolve in order to remain relevant.
Price-matching is a good place to start, but there’s so much left to explore. Until shoppers walk into your store with their smartphones and get a truly personalized experience, that gap hasn’t been bridged. Artificial intelligence and augmented reality are both technologies ripe for marketing exploration, it’s predicted they’ll play a big part in creating the true equivalent of an online transaction in real life, and perhaps even give shoppers an experience that will be more attractive than what the web has to offer.