30 July 2020
The interaction between online and offline customer experience in the new normal
With COVID-19 forcing people to stay indoors over the past months, the increase in online shopping that we have witnessed in recent years has now truly skyrocketed. While in-store customer experiences have gone from funshopping to runshopping, how will retail businesses and e-commerce platforms alike cope with shifting trends?
The 3rd edition of Beyond Digital, the knowledge-sharing discussion club was hosted online by our managing partner Jeroen Geleyn. As always, the goal was informal conversational learning, with experienced digital marketing professionals representing different sectors sharing their views and outlooks on a specific digital topic.
These shifts in online and offline customer experiences and the interaction between both formed the main topic in this month’s Beyond Digital, the knowledge-sharing discussion club organised by digital expert Ariad, where Digital Innovation and Customer Experience managers from prominent companies share and gather information in an informal manner.
With the advent and continuous growth of online shopping, physical stores have been looking to keep the edge over e-commerce. More than ever, the future of in-store shopping was about the experience: coffee corners, gaming areas, DJs, workshops,... But right now, COVID-19 is making it so hard to provide a fun shopping experience that the question arises as to how stores can remain relevant in these times.
According to Harold Simonart, Ecommerce Manager Benelux at ICI Paris XL, stores need to pay attention to two elements. “Firstly, the staff has to be top-notch as their expert advice and helpfulness make all the difference. Secondly, it is essential that a store’s product range is both diverse and readily accessible. And if products are out of stock, swift delivery has to be possible.”
Bringing store experience online as much as possible
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, retailers had no choice but to adapt to a shopping experience in which online shopping takes center stage. The challenge now lies in taking the experience, which has become so important in in-store shopping, online and integrating the different aspects that make up a quality offline customer experience: instant gratification, advice, product testing, inspiration & discovery and the social aspect.
1. Instant gratification and urgency
People go to the store because they know they will be back home in an hour with what they need. E-commerce platforms will have to continue to shorten delivery times in the future to ensure equal instant gratification. This is already happening with some retailers offering same day deliveries.
Great advice is also key to a quality customer experience. Even though technology can play its part, the human aspect remains of the highest value. Customer satisfaction rises if a client receives help by a true expert or product specialist at the other end of the line instead of being referred to the FAQ section or given half answers by someone from the contact center.
3. Testing products
One of the main reasons people shop in-store is because it allows them to test products or to try on shoes and clothing. Thanks to augmented reality, it is now feasible as well to try on make-up or to see how a TV looks on your own wall. Additionally, with the help of interactive wizards, customers can discover which size of clothing will fit them best.
4. Inspiration and discovery
Often people go to stores to be inspired and to discover new products right there and then. An online shopping experience also offers this opportunity, especially with recommendations based on algorithms. The goal to inspire people in order for them to discover new things should stay, offline as well as online.
5. Social aspect
People also indicate that they experience shopping as a social activity in which they partake together with friends or family. The social aspect often remains absent online, but new solutions, such as Squadded’s internet browser extension, make it possible to share the experience of online shopping with others.
All in all, the means exist to emulate offline strategies for a quality customer experience online. “But ultimately,” concludes Nicolaas, Belfius Head of Customer Experience, ”whether online or offline, providing the best customer experience trickles down to knowing your customers and maintaining the human aspect of customer engagement. In that sense, all retailers both online and offline should aim to achieve the knowledge of the shopkeeper on the corner who truly knows his customers and their needs. That should be the goal.”