The summer is in full swing and many people are eager to return to their regular, in-store shopping habits. As a large part of economic activity quickly moved online during the pandemic, long-standing traditions in customer purchasing behavior were completely upended. Open storefronts could no longer be the first point of contact for customers looking to browse or make a purchase. Instead, customers first needed to interact online.
The use of digital customer initiatives, such as online shopping, video engagement, appointment setting, and in-store and curbside pick-ups and drop-offs have allowed businesses to bridge the gap between the in-store customer experience they have been lacking, and the digital customer journey that is now required.
Click and mortar: Engage a new type of online shopper
A considerable portion of shoppers have grown accustomed to these online interactions. In a recent McKinsey Institute study of 899 CEOs, 62% of respondents expected customer needs post-pandemic to change permanently. Further funding of digital initiatives such as online service offerings — including virtual boutiques and appointments — have been key in confronting this change in customer behavior.
As the pandemic wanes, storefronts are re-opening, but a new type of customer is emerging. People empowered by the digital experiences they built online are using that online experience as a way to familiarize themselves with brands and companies before venturing to the store. In short, they prefer click-and-mortar experiences versus traditional brick-and-mortar ones. Because of this enormous shift in behavior, bridging the gap between the online customer experience and in-store one has never been more critical for retailers.
Offer choices during the customer journey
What you’ll need to win these newly-empowered customers over is a turnkey, omnichannel customer engagement solution. Cobrowsing, chatbots, online and in-store appointment setting, and text and video chat create the perfect environment for your customers to select whatever option is most convenient and makes them feel most comfortable. Supporting your customers throughout their online buying journey is crucial to closing sales. And transferring an online customer to an in-store appointment is equally beneficial for those who still want to buy at your brick-and-mortar locations.
A solution that empowers customers to make purchasing decisions online also creates valuable reporting data. Gathering insights about customer behavior online can help direct in-store sale efforts and help optimize the use of company resources. Providing an omnichannel experience doesn’t need to require juggling multiple CRMs or switching applications to use different tools. Instead, a well-designed strategy along with the right tools can provide a single pane of glass for key touchpoints along the customer journey. And this will help your service and sales agents save time, be more productive, and better serve customers now and in the future.
Bring online and in-store together with an omnichannel experience
Taking all this into account, customer engagements should no longer diverge into the traditional “virtual” and “in-store” classifications we’ve all used in the past. A good omnichannel engagement platform will empower customers to choose their own purchasing pathway. And it will transform an in-store visit into an online sale and vice versa.
With the right platform, your service and sales agents will feel confident in saying: “Looking to chat live with a representative online? We’ve got you covered.” “Coming into the store for a pick-up? We’ve checked our schedule and will have an agent ready for your in-store visit on the day and time you requested.” “Want me to show you what we have available? Great, I can cobrowse you to the correct webpage or we can even start a video chat, and I can show it to you live.”
About the Author — Ryan Gagnon, Senior Client Services Associate, Vee24
Ryan Gagnon has worked in the digital customer experience space since 2016 with a focus on online appointments and virtual engagements. As the senior client services associate at Vee24, he’s laser-focused on helping leading brands transform customers’ online interactions and in-store experiences as well as update their digital service offerings for the modern age. In his free time, you’ll most likely find him in a vintage record store, searching through the dustiest section he can find.