How are customers interacting with in-store technology?
We've reasoned that leveraging technology in outlets is the way to go, but before we can use it effectively, we need to know how it can be harnessed to encourage customer engagement.
Shopping online delivers a unique experience to consumers, and in some ways, it can alienate brick-and-mortar stores.
When people discuss technology nowadays, the word "connected" often enters the conversation. The problem is, finding a way to connect stores with their virtual counterparts to create a seamless experience for patrons isn't easy. We've reasoned that leveraging technology in outlets is the way to go, but before we can use it effectively, we need to know how it can be harnessed to encourage customer engagement.
"76 percent of consumers vet products in-store before buying them online."
What's a brick-and-mortar store to the digital consumer?
The balance between showrooming and Webrooming is more equal than some would think. Webrooming is the practice of researching items online and then purchasing them in-store, which is the reverse of showrooming - browsing for items in a store and purchasing them online later. It may seem as if people are coming into your store, examining items and then leaving without so much as a "goodbye," but there's an underlying reason why they visited your store in the first place: They were looking for an informative experience - the kind that goes beyond online reviews and star-based rating systems.
Interactions, a marketing and research firm focusing on consumer behavior and preferences, released a report titled "The Rise of Webrooming: A Changing Consumer Landscape." The study found that 76 percent of consumers research products in-store before buying online and also that 88 percent research items online before purchasing them in-store. The following discoveries were also released:
- 41 percent of study participants seek advice and help from in-store employees when vetting goods
- 71 percent of subjects said they prefer the experience of researching items online
- 72 percent of consumers would rather compare products online than in-store
Based on this behavior, it can be deduced that the majority of people view physical retail outlets as their "final destination," but they still enjoy the ease at which they can navigate a retailer's product portfolio. Consider the statistic about online product comparison. It's not convenient to grab three products off different shelves, bring them to one area where you can examine them, and have to return them their original places when you're done.
How technology can enhance these needs
In regard to Interactions' research, we can make the argument that consumers are ultimately looking for multiple levels of information delivery: They want the convenience of shopping online in addition to the more intimate experience of handling products, speaking with representatives and so forth. So, what sort of technology should retailers employ to fully accommodate today's consumers? Consider the hypothetical situation below:
Encouraging interaction at every point of the store is imperative.
Suppose a person - let's call her Carol - walks into an electronics store and wants to purchase a video camera. Specifically, she wants one that's capable of recording HD video, with a battery life of 10 hours or longer, can endure cold weather and possesses built-in basic editing software. Based on the research she's conducted at home, Carol has narrowed her choice down to five cameras. A store representative assigned to the Video/Photo section is currently busy, so she is left to assess the products on her own.
However, located at the center of the section is an interactive kiosk featuring a catalog of all available cameras. As opposed to looking at each camera one by one, Carol approaches the kiosk and begins swiping through the selection as she would a smartphone or tablet. A small guidance feature at the top right-hand corner of the display tells her that double tapping on products will allow her to compare multiple items at once. She surveys all five video cameras simultaneously, taking note of the store's pricing and insurance information applicable to each unit.
This in-store interaction with digital technology is a prime example of how the customer experience can extend seamlessly into a brick-and-mortar store. Not only did the kiosk bring the ease-of-use consumers favor in mobile devices, it kept Carol engaged when a representative was busy. Once the store employee is free, he or she can then deliver the "up close and personal" experience Carol wanted from the store.