While the industry continues to witness the fall of more traditional retailers (most recently, Sears), there are some key bright spots in the retail market.
According to Forrester, the projected growth rate for pure digital purchases in 2018 is $48 billion. The projected growth rate of in-store purchases that begin digitally is $69 billion. From a hard dollar standpoint, the largest dollar growth is from people starting their buyer’s journey online and then buying in a physical store.
But the majority of retail brands still approach digital and brick and mortar as their own channel silos, designing experiences for each independently of each other. This creates inconsistencies, annoyances and other roadblocks for customers as they navigate between the two, resulting in a sub-optimal customer experience.
Now add mobile to the mix (which eMarketer predicts will represent 74% of digital ad spending by 2020), and the situation is complicated further. Google has concluded that mobile consumers move through their journeys in spurts rather than sessions, and that the “micro-moment” is the new battlefield where brands achieve success or failure.
Being customer-centric is not just about doing digital well and doing mobile well and doing the in-store experience well—it’s about understanding these channels together and how they must interact to allow the customer to direct her own buyer’s journey.
Thankfully for consumers, some brands are getting it right, and they are the brands seeing continued growth (in spite of the supposed “retailpocalypse”). Here are a few examples.
Best Buy Invented Omnichannel
In The History of Omni-channel blog series, author Nikki Baird explains:
“…I think a lot of people forget or lose sight of the fact that omni-channel didn’t begin as omni-channel, or even cross-channel. It began as Customer Centricity. And the retailer who should get credit for putting Customer Centricity on the map is Best Buy.”
Best Buy gets the credit for the birth of omnichannel marketing and customer centricity because the company understands the critical linkage between digital, mobile and physical experiences. Integration of these channels puts the customer in the driver’s seat—lets customers shop how they want to shop—in a more traditional, linear approach to a purpose or through spurts of activities characterized by micro-moments.
Many customers may want to do their initial research online and then visit the store to check out products, ask questions of the Blue Shirts and complete the transaction. But there are also customers that would rather have their TV delivered to their home after transacting in store (instead of lugging that thing out themselves). Some customers want the television NOW—they research options on their mobile app, choose a nearby store with inventory, transact within the app, then pick up within an hour at the store. Others check out products in store, while also comparing reviews and transacting on their mobile.
Best Buy’s mobile app encourages visitors to incorporate your local store into your buyer’s journey.
Buyer’s journeys are as unique as the individuals completing them, and Best Buy was one of the first brands to figure out the need to enable all of them seamlessly, for a customer-centric, omnichannel experience.
Casper Reinvents Mattress Shopping
Bed-in-a-box retailer Casper was born as a digital company, but the brand has seen so much success that they recently announced the opening of 200 physical stores.
Casper’s digital experience is excellent, providing educational materials in a variety of formats, including text, video, customer reviews. But if you have questions, there’s a chat feature, as well as the option to text with the brand. Both get you a prompt response from a real human that seems to have access to relevant information about your experience thus far. After making a purchase, Casper sends a text message confirmation and tracking information. Got a question? Someone will text you back. Decide to return your mattress? You can do that through text or chat, too.
For those that really need to try before they buy a mattress, Casper invites online visitors to “schedule a nap” at one of their physical locations. The nap experience is completely different than a traditional mattress shopping experience, allowing visitors to kick off their shoes and get comfy on beds in semi-private rooms. Sales associates are there purely to answer questions and assist customers, not sell. You can buy a bed at the location if you’d like and take it home that day, but most buyers go back online to order at their leisure.
From text messaging to nap rooms, the variety of features and experiences Casper has implemented make it easy for consumers to accomplish what they what to, throughout the buyer’s journey, in the channels they choose to interact in.
Bonobos Helps Associates Help Customers
The Bonobos mobile app is one of the most useful clothing apps I’ve ever used. It offers to help you “dress for the weather” using your real-time location, suggests full outfits based on the kind of clothing you’re in the market for, and allows you to save a closet full of clothes you’ve already purchased to reference when making new purchases. Got a question? One click opens your email client to ask a one of their customer service “ninjas.”
Both the Bonobos mobile app and the brand’s website (where you can speak with those ninjas via chat seven days a week) encourage visitors to make an appointment to visit the store. Visitors can make appointments for wardrobe overhauls, quick fittings and for grooms’ shop fittings, all featuring one-on-one attention to help you find just what you’re looking for.
The best part of the Bonobos experience? You can start shopping online, and when you subsequently make an appointment to visit a store, the store associate can review your profile (style, preferences, sizing, etc.) to make the best possible recommendations when you arrive.
Now, that’s some omnichannel integration.
The Bonobos website uses prime home page real estate to encourage store visits.
Allow Customers to Direct Their Own Journeys
What brands like Best Buy, Casper and Bonobos understand is brick-and-mortar retail is not dead. Physical stores play an important role at certain stages of the buyer’s journey. Retail locations that create experiences that cater to customer needs at these stages of the journey are valuable to the customer and increase ROI—rather than eating away at profits as a financial liability as more traditional retailers have experienced.
But all three of these brands have not only mastered an individual channel or two, they have mastered connecting them together to benefit the customer. They allow and encourage customers to direct their own buyer’s journey, removing roadblocks, inconsistencies and other annoyances to provide a truly customer-centric, omnichannel experience.
So much for that “retailpocalypse.”