From The Editor | October 18, 2012

Omni-Channel Retailing And The Customer Experience (Part 3)

Bob Johns, Robert Johns, associate editor

By Bob Johns, associate editor

Conversion is the key to growing and retaining business across every channel in which retailers operate. Creating a unique experience across these channels helps to drive those conversion numbers up, and in turn, grows the bottom line. In part one of this series, we discussed the role fulfillment takes in the new retail environment. In part two, we focused on how loss prevention (LP) technologies are helping retailers better serve their customers. In this final installment, we will be discussing how the overall customer experience can drive sales and improve conversion rates.

Access, visibility, and efficiency are the keys that enhance the customer experience and help to capture the sale. We need to approach each of these keys from three directions: the online customer, the in-store customer, and the associate.

The Online Customer
A retail website must give customers access to everything they need in one place. Retailers have gotten very good at making sure product specifications are easy to navigate to, but what about customer reviews, ratings, inventory, and associated products? As a retailer, you do not want customers to have to leave your site to get product reviews or specs. The odds of that customer returning to your site are slim to none. Most review sites have links that will take the customer to another location that will sell them the product, not your site. Keep the access to this information in an intuitive location that does not require a lot of navigation.

Visibility is another key to online conversion. When I am talking visibility, I mean into the product availability, pricing, and shipping options. There is nothing more frustrating than finding the exact product you want, going to check out, and being informed that it is temporarily out of stock. Let the customer see that up front, or let them see that it is out of stock online, but it is available in their neighborhood store. Would the customer like to pick it up there, or would they like it shipped to their home from the store? Have these options readily available to the customer, so that they can make a quick decision and not leave the site.

Efficiency is key to online conversion. Customers are not routinely on a retail site to browse; they are there to look for a specific item. Make the search easy, and make sure the site is fast. The slower the site, the more likely the customer will go somewhere else. Also, make it easy for the customer to get associated items for the product they are buying. Getting a TV? Make sure the HDMI cable is suggested. Buying a dress, suggest the right shoes to go with it. But, make these suggestions in an unobtrusive manner. No pop-ups!

The In-Store Customer And The Associate
These two go hand in hand. When we talk about access, consider that over 50% of customers now have smartphones. Have a QR code available on the shelf for a customer to pull up product information, or to purchase the item from the retail website and have the item shipped to their house. Give the customer the same visibility into the inventory that they should enjoy online. At the same time, having associates equipped with mobile devices that offer even more information creates an interaction point for the customer. The associate can offer information, suggestive sell, or conclude the sale on a mobile POS at the time of decision.

In-store customers offer the greatest opportunity to improve conversion. A customer is in the store for one reason, to buy that product, and facilitating that sale is the associate’s job. Everything about access, visibility, and efficiency that was mentioned above for the online customer must be available to the in-store customer. There are no longer multiple channels for the customer, the one channel is the sales channel. Whether this is accomplished on the customer’s own device, or by a properly equipped associate, the end goal is the same. Take this customer from the point of inquiry to the point of decision. Make the sale, and make it worthwhile to the customer for them to come back again and again.