TMCnet Feature
July 22, 2011

Bridging the Gap Between Online and Brick-and-Mortar Retail

By TMCnet Special Guest
Chris Krywulak, CEO and Founder, iQmetrix

With the overwhelming abundance of devices, carriers, rate plans, features and accessories available, shopping for a mobile phone can be a daunting experience, leaving many shoppers frustrated and confused. In today’s competitive environment, retailers must simplify this shopping process for customers by providing a better in-store experience.

Shoppers are seeking a more informative, engaging and efficient buying experience and a combination of technology and service is the best approach to grab their attention and keep them browsing in-store.

Bridging the gap between online and brick-and-mortar retail

A high-tech shopping experience combines the best of physical and virtual worlds, allowing shoppers to obtain the information and convenience of an online experience, while also being able to see, touch and try the products they want to buy.

The majority of customers prefer researching products online rather than speaking with store staff and 51 percent of shoppers said a consumer-written online review has influenced them to buy a certain product. With the growing use of smartphones, shoppers can collect all of this pre-purchase information in a matter of minutes, even while on the go, providing them with additional questions and/or concerns when entering the store.

In spite of being able to research products and prices on the web, mobile device shoppers still need to visit a physical store to try out the device, choose a rate plan and activate the service.

Attract shoppers into the store AND keep them engaged

Shoppers are looking for the same efficiency, convenience and information when visiting a store, as they receive from online shopping. Accenture (News - Alert) research supports this notion:

“Today’s tech-savvy consumer wants a seamless shopping experience across store, mobile or online at a time that suits them,” says Janet Hoffman (News - Alert), managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “Ultimately, this trend will lead to a new definition of the store; purpose, place and size are all up for debate,” she adds. “Already we are seeing some shoppers treating stores more like a showroom to test products and then making their purchase online.”

A 2011 Cisco Study found that:

  • 56 percent of shoppers use the web to inform their buying decisions.
  • Of these web-informed shoppers, 54 percent want to try a store that offers a combination of web-like and in-store experiences; 73 percent would prefer a touchscreen virtual interface in-store.
  • A growing number of shoppers (11 percent, with high representation among young people) use both the web and smartphones to find the lowest possible price.

Provide Customers With What They Want – Quickly and Efficiently

In order for retailers to take control of the in-store experience, it’s important to consider what types of experiences customers are looking for.

In 2010, Consumer Reports surveyed 11,000 shoppers, who indicated keys to positive phone shopping experiences:

  • Easy activation: The mobile phone activation process can be tiresome, so any efforts to simplify it will go a long way in increasing customer satisfaction.
  • Fast checkout: Expediting is a huge factor in delivering a good phone shopping experience. Customers simply don’t want to wait in line.
  • Vast phone selection: A quality brand experience meets customers’ expectations of store design, as well as product choice and quality.
  • Affordable prices: A quality brand experience also allows customers to easily compare costs of different devices and plans, ensuring they identify a price that works for them.
  • Good customer service: This, the human element of the brand experience, brings together the remaining four aspects of great shopping experiences: Engagement, Execution, Expediting and Problem Recovery.

Delivering a Enjoyable and Engaging Customer Experience that Keeps them Coming Back for More

Stores that implement interactive retail technology will see a major drop in walk-outs, and a real increase in consumer interest, sales efficiency and profitability.

  • Pull customers into the store. Interactive displays draw customers in with attractive ads and intriguing moving images.
  • Deliver the convenience and information of online and mobile shopping experiences. Interactive Retail increases conversion rates and cross-selling, displaying relevant and timely product information and reviews, as well as in-store promotions to customers.
  • Deliver a personalized phone shopping experience. Digital screens and integrated software enables retailers to customize the experience of each shopper, maximizing customer profile information, purchasing history, inventory data and more.
  • Keep customers engaged while in-store. Solutions available today for retailers give customers the opportunity to entertain and educate themselves while waiting to speak to a sales associate.

Expedite and facilitate the phone shopping process. These same services provide dynamic sales aides to communicate product benefits and speed up the sales cycle.

Ultimately, mobile retailers need to offer both engaging and convenient experiences within the store so shoppers can have a pleasant shopping experience with availability of the products they demand.

Christopher Krywulak is CEO of iQmetrix (News - Alert), a leading provider of solutions to the wireless retail industry. iQmetrix was founded in 1999 when Krywulak, a successful wireless retailer, realized a need for an integrated system to manage his business.

TMCnet publishes expert commentary on various telecommunications, IT, call center, CRM and other technology-related topics. Are you an expert in one of these fields, and interested in having your perspective published on a site that gets several million unique visitors each month? Get in touch.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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