I know many retailers are tired of hearing about the importance of having a online identity for their stores. It might seem we are trying to get our members ready for the demise of their bricks and mortar stores. A recent session of Coffee with CART made a big point that proves otherwise.
The more that happens online, the more important bricks and mortar stores are.
Stores now have a choice of multiple online tools to get their brand out among consumers. The amount of tools to use is growing FAST, with no breaks or time outs. All of these tools are used to influence shoppers because purchases now START online. Notice they didn’t say all purchases end online because people still need to have a physical shopping experience.
64% shoppers say they need better customer service in order to make a purchase. US adults spend 2 hours and 51 minutes a day on their mobile devices. What are these US adults doing with their mobile time? They are providing their own customer service by researching for future purchases, which is why stores need to have all their products available for purchase online.
Wait a second, why do these products need to be available online when the customer is IN the store? Lets say a customer wants to try a new brand of Almond Milk. They have read about the health benefits, they know you carry the brand they want because they saw it in your circular. The customer arrives at your store to find the only flavor left is chocolate, and they wanted vanilla to put on their cereal. They look around for help, but everyone is busy checking out customers up front. What if the shelf tag under the empty spot where the vanilla almond milk has a QR code with a note, “order online, next day delivery available”? Who hasn’t dreamed of going to a store knowing they will be out of… nothing?
Just having a website is no longer enough because people have online preferences and use different tools for different tasks. Some like Social Media to see what products friends are using. Some customers like to read the reviews on Amazon, while others read about services on Yelp. If they read just a snippet of information about something and want to just see what it is, they Google it. People tend to reach for what they know, that’s why having several ways to purchase your products online is ideal. Remember the customer who wanted vanilla almond milk? What if his QR reader needs to be updated, so he Googles it? What if you sell your products online using Google Delivery?
Google is now testing grocery delivery with Whole Foods and Cotsco. This is a service where the products will be drawn out of the store. What if Google can’t find what products you carry? They will go to another store that has made product information available online.
But it isn’t just about product information, Apple just announced new features for their iPhones, iPads and system updates a few days ago. Soon customers will be able to use iPay on their Apple watches. So far, about 1 million stores use iPay. Popular apps for Apple watches are keeping track of peoples health and diet which might be a good place for a mobile ad. Have you considered investing in mobile ads? They may not be the same as they have been. Apple will soon be offering ad blocking for mobile devices. Apple is asking businesses to make ads more relevant to the viewer in order to not have your mobile ad blocked. So no more blanket ads everyone can see because your target demographic (everyone) eats, you have to get more strategic.
Voice recognition is being used more too. Have you had a conversation with Siri or Alexa? This technology has lead to “Digital Assistants” to help with shopping. “Siri, add toothpaste to my shopping list” as an example. This is another online tool stores should look into. As more shopping apps come out, it is important for stores and the products they sell be known by Digital Assistants.
Finally, another growing area mobile is being used is for employee management. Let’s say the customer looking for vanilla almond milk did find an employee to ask if they had any in the back. Instead of taking the time to go digging in the back, the employee could find out by using their phone. Look up “Bee Keeper” for such an app. This could make communicating with multiple locations easier, at any hour of the day. Let’s say a owner of several stores visits a store that has an exceptional peach display. They can take a picture of the display, then let everyone know at other store locations how you want all peach displays to look, even after the night crew has started.
Technology continues to evolve for both consumers and retailers. Knowing what is out there and what is available doesn’t necessarily mean you have to adopt it, but you have to be aware of what’s coming and what you’re up against.