The retail industry continues to become a highly competitive industry, though being able to sell items online has become a better outlet for many stores. Your own retail store has perhaps considered using more eCommerce, despite wondering how to optimize for it.
There isn't any better time to do retail online. Statistics show retail eCommerce sales will reach $4.5 trillion by 2021. This probably makes you gasp after hoping the old traditional methods of retail can still survive.
Those of you who remember the days of creating a delightful in-store shopping experience can still bring the same experience to eCommerce.
What a Great Shopping Experience Once Meant
Creating the above-mentioned supreme shopping experience usually meant a clerk taking you to a fitting room to try on those new clothes you wanted. It also meant a clerk in the shoe department letting you relax in a chair while they measured your feet for new shoes.
The same went for the personal touches sales staff exhibited in jewelry departments. They'd have enough expertise to make sure you bought something fitting your personal fashion tastes.
Some of this went by the wayside in the last couple of decades due to certain circumstances. What's important to know now is you can transfer this great customer experience concept to the eCommerce world. You just need a roadmap on how to go about it correctly so you give customers personalized shopping experiences like the old days.
First, it's worth looking at what took the joy out of in-store shopping for some people.
Change for Retail Stores in the New Millennium
A couple of factors went into why retail store customer experiences went by the wayside. During the 1990s, sales clerks started to receive less formal training, bringing clerks who didn't know how to properly approach customers.
As The Atlantic noted recently, the 1990s also saw the advent of more automation, leading to far fewer hours of training (or retraining) at the time. While this has improved somewhat since, pay for retail clerks in the 21st century hasn't exactly gone up.
Far too many clerks still languish near minimum wage. Payscale.com shows an average retail sales clerk only making a median rate of $9.91 an hour. It's no wonder then that many clerks don't take the time to give customers great customer experiences when the former don't feel inspired in their jobs.
So what can you do in eCommerce to bring the joy back to shopping? Thanks to technology many people shopping online can get the same feel of shopping in-store.
Creating an Omnichannel Experience
Most people who spend time online don't just hang out in one place at a given time. They have multiple social media accounts and other outlets they visit (sometimes all at once) when online.
As Forbes notes, many retail stores now bring an omnichannel experience to eCommerce. This works by creating a cohesive experience between the online world and your physical location. In many cases, this might work together. Customers may use their mobile devices in-store to view your digital showroom of products before making a buying commitment.
Omnichannel can mean strictly online as well, you just have to keep it consistent there so you don't create confusion with your brand.
When you have various types of marketing content on more than one social channel, you need to make sure it has cohesion. Bringing an omnichannel experience to market sometimes means creating targeted ads on other sites correlating exactly to what you know the customer wants. By providing a direct link to your eCommerce store from an ad, you've already brought back the "put the customer first" process.
Using Data to Know What Your Customers Want
You have to prove to your customers you know what they want, because 81% of them are going to do research online about your products first. Many customers may know more about you and your products before you know anything about them. Even so, you need to use analytics more rigorously to fully understand customers. Creating customer personas is also an ideal way to know who to target.
This brings back the days when a salesperson would know a customer based on asking questions and getting to know them like a good friend.
Once you know who you're targeting, your eCommerce marketing content should reflect this more personalized approach as if you've known visitors all along.
The Personalized Touch of a Virtual Assistant
One major trend to personalize eCommerce interactions is the use of virtual assistants. Big retail outlets like Walmart have already invested heavily in using these digital shopping guides. In fact, Walmart's CEO has gone on record saying virtual assistants are the gateway to tech-enhanced shopping.
Using artificial intelligence to interact, these assistants also use machine learning to gradually become smarter. They learn based on customer interactions, working very similarly to a human salesperson.
They aren't giving cold and sterile responses either. Many of them are so advanced, it mimics the feel of talking to a real person.
When a customer chats with a virtual assistant online, they'll be guided exactly to what they want based on past shopping choices or the personas you've put together. You're also starting to see this work with voice search which is growing to be a major part of every online experience. Recognizing voice patterns is going to become key to making online shopping even more personalized in the near future.
In this regard, voice search brings it full circle back to actually talking to a salesperson, this time virtually.
Creating Authentic Conversations About Your Products
The warmth of a real sales experience isn't going to go away. Through a virtual store, this brings back the same feel and ultimately allows customers even more insight into buying something from you they didn't even realize they wanted.
Through eCommerce customer call centers these conversations continue in reality. It's important to have 24/7 availability so customers can ask more questions about the products you offer.
Here at Westpark Communications, we offer a communications service using real interactive virtual assistants. You can use this as a 24/7 system so your customers always get their retail questions answered at any time.