Omnichannel best practices succeed in offering one seamless experience for customers. In many cases, both digital and physical channels are in place to offer the customers what they need, when they need it. Still, the question remains how the physical and digital channels should be balanced. To answer this question, once again, we should focus on the customer.
The first question we should ask is whether a physical store is still relevant. Studies have shown that about 80% of consumers use digital channels such as computer, smartphone, tablet or in-store technology in shopping. More importantly, however, 73% of consumers also use physical stores next to these digital channels in their shopping journey. In addition, other studies point towards customer experience as being the key brand differentiator.
Customer experience is subjective and personal, but the concept can still be used to balance physical channels against digital channels (or bricks vs. clicks). Although a digital-only company can use all kinds of high-tech tricks to make their website look and feel as cool as possible, a truly amazing customer experience is rarely created via digital-only channels. A physical store has much more capabilities in terms of appealing to a customer’s subjective appreciation of the shopping experience. A cosy shop, some products to test and feel, helpful advice in person, accessible drop-off or pick-up point… can all boost the customer appreciation level higher than a digital-only shop ever will.
Offering physical stores next to digital channels offers so much more possibilities for a company to meet the customer’s demand and trigger a true ‘wow’ experience. A few years ago, shops tend to complain about customers that came to physical stores to determine what to buy, but they bought the product online (often via cheaper online retailers). In recent years, however, ‘reverse showrooming’ is booming: customers analyze and compare online, but buy the product in a physical store.
Customer experience, however, is more than creating the ‘wow’ experience in a physical store. Customer service also influences a large part of the customer experience. A proper service should be a major focus of organizations since it can affect customer satisfaction in both ways. A lack of customer service will make your customers turn their backs on you, while most customers are willing to pay more for decent customer service. In that sense, physical store should focus on serving the customers instead of selling products.
To meet the customer’s demands in the best way possible, exploiting both physical and digital channels is appropriate. Online channels offer clear advantages for ordering products or comparing prices. Physical stores can be organized in some specific ways to offer a customer experience that digital channels cannot.
- Flagship store: Nicely designed shop where a significant amount of products (with a focus on the new ones) can be tested and experienced. In this shop, the customer should be amazed in each possible way.
- Specialty store: Clearly dedicated store where a customer can get all the information, advice and special products he or she desires.
- Service store: Only a few products can be bought in the service store, since the main focus is on personal advice, pick-ups, reparations and returns.
- Outlet store: Special store to sell old collections at cheaper prices. This avoids large discounts on a website, which might reduce the brand image.
- Pop-up store: A pop-up store offers an ideal way of testing the options of a physical store and meeting your customers in person. The pop-up store can create quite a buzz, which is favorable for the familiarity of the brand
At Möbius, we strongly believe in this win-win situation that can be created between online and offline channels. Together with our clients, we spend a lot of time understanding the customers and mapping the shopping journey they follow. Digital transformations, in our, opinion all start from ‘walk the customer talk’. As we showed in this article, the physical and digital channels each have their own key benefits. It is absolutely crucial to know what your customers want, what they like about your current offering and what they would improve. Only then can a company determine which specific benefits a physical store can have over a digital channel and vice versa to determine the right balance between bricks & clicks.
Together with our clients, we at Möbius engage in this journey to discover the customer needs and we guide our clients in including all required aspects to be able to offer a true omnichannel experience.