How SMBs can create seamless online-to-offline retail experiences

Consumers today are not tied to a single shopping experience. Neither should your retail strategy.

Baby boomers, for example, still prefer to shop in-store but are least likely to enjoy the shopping experience. They’ve seen it all when it comes to selling. Therefore, they demand superior customer service and gravitate towards online retailers they already know and trust.


Gen Z (18-21 in age) are completely comfortable with mobile shopping and want the ability customize their individual experiences. They’re receptive to affinity marketing, which connect them with brands that cater to their needs. Gen Z also cares about the world, only liking brands that are “a representation of their values, their expectations of themselves and their peers,” according to a Google study.

There are contradictory reports about buying preferences when it comes to Millennials. One study shows that while Millennials have a reputation for being fixated on tech, most still prefer browsing in-store, but buy online. Another report, however, showed that millennials browse online and offline, but are more likely to purchase from a brick and mortar store. A different study finds that Millennials are more likely than other generations to shop in-store for the holidays - Thanksgiving, Black Friday and even Cyber Monday. And they love coupons and a good bargain.

Suffice to say that commerce businesses must adjust their retail strategies to keep up with rapidly evolving channels, both online and offline.

Integrating online and offline retail experiences in 2019

Online platforms provide particular benefits to buyers by:

1. Helping boost confidence in products through customer ratings, reviews and community feedback.

Glossier-reviewSites like Glossier encourage honest feedback from their community

2. Building trust through certifications, awards, SSL and secure payment badges.

HonestCompanyThe Honest Co.’s product pages indicate guarantees, promises, awards & certifications

3. Providing ability to zoom in on high-res product photos

Target-zoomTarget.com has product zoom feature

4. Providing ability to comparison shop - by price, brand, or spec details

newegg-comparison

NewEgg.com allows online shoppers to compare similar items they’ve browsed

5. Providing variety and choices


serenalily-variety

6. Helping them avoid pressure from sales associates.

warbyparker-hometryonWarby Parker ships frames to try-on at home.

However, there are specific aspects of the retail experience that only can be provided by brick-and-mortar stores such as trying, tasting, touching, smelling or sizing items.

Related ebook: Harnessing Multi-Currency & Multi-Warehouse Capabilities For More Sales

Digital native brands such as Casper understand this. Founded in 2014, the online mattress company garnered consumer trust by positioning themselves as subject-matter experts on sleep and mattresses. Through content and referral marketing, Casper alleviated fears of purchasing a mattress without jumping on one. They also offer a 100-day guarantee, which helped boost consumer confidence in making such a pricey purchase online.

Casper Sleep Shop 1 Photo credit: Casper.com

In early 2018, Casper opened a Sleep Shop in Manhattan where customers can try out mattresses in six different miniature homes that resemble art installations. The “home” designs will change every few months. Customers can also purchase items such as pillows to bring home immediately or have delivered, and partake in sleep- and wellness- related events throughout the year.  They’ve since partnered with big box retailers like Target and Nordstrom to carry their mattresses.

Fast forward to August 2018, Casper announces plans to open 200 stores across North America. Among them are 18 pop-ups which the company will make permanent, while others will be placed in high-traffic malls.

This is just one example of digital native brands are starting to grow from a pure ecommerce play and wanting to eschew humdrum showrooms.

On the flipside, Everlane CEO Michael Preysman was quoted by AdWeek saying, “A brand that has 500 stores no longer makes sense in today’s world. But having 20 to 50 key locations that help bring an expression of the brand to life is very relevant for the customer.”

Offline experiences are an extension of an online brand

Digital native brands–like Casper, Allbirds and Everlane–are able to provide seamless omni-channel experiences because they waited. Meaning, they waited until they’ve established themselves as authorities in their categorical niche before creating a physical store.

To go from online to retail, it’s important to effectively align a company’s online presence with their brick-and-mortar store. This requires a transfer of company values and the customer experience. Everlane does this effortlessly.

The online fashion brand demonstrates their core values of “radical transparency” through web copy, marketing and the text fixtures in their retail locations.Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 12.08.45 PM

Everlane installations show how their sustainable production process differs from a typical retail factory.

Everlane also developed its own in-store and integrated POS tech that creates a connection between a customer’s online profile and their shopping behavior in-store

Other retailers like Zara have done the same by bridging the gap between brick-and-mortar and eCommerce.

How SMBs can create an online-to-offline commerce strategy

Bring together the best of both worlds by offering a unique shopping experience. The goal is not to move consumers from one channel to another (like you would in a multi-channel strategy), but to provide seamless access to any channel that makes sense for your target customer. Treat online and offline channels as complementary versus competitively.

Make sure to meet and exceed customer expectations when it comes your online store, as shared earlier. If you have the budget, consider retargeting consumers who are searching for your products or services.

If you have a physical store, consider offering in-store pickup versus delivery, or allow online purchases to be returned in your physical locations.

But O2O experiences will only be successful if the customer experience is positive and personalized. So before scaling your O2O efforts, make sure you can deliver on a smaller scale.

Good news for SMBs: This is possible with TradeGecko.

You can manage your inventory efficiently across multiple locations and warehouses, all in a single platform. Our Shopify Multi-Location feature also allows you to set up multiple locations in your Shopify store.

TradeGecko is a powerful platform for managing your commerce business.

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