The customer experience — both online and off — is a very competitive differentiation for brands today. A good experience results in a loyal customer and brand advocate, which is no easy feat, as customer expectations are becoming higher, and their patience lower.
New brands have so many more touch points to prove to a customer they can provide a good experience. Whether that is walking into a physical store, at home on their laptops, or browsing a retailer’s app on the subway, brands are challenged to provide a stellar experience wherever the customer is. But this does not mean that brick-and-mortar stores are obsolete — in fact, it creates a challenge for brands to adapt just as well in-person as they must online.
The Halo Effect
Brands carry their reputations with them across platforms, and a recent study from ICSC shows just how interconnected online and in-store sales can be. When a brand opens a new store, the study found that their web traffic increases by an average of 27 percent, showing just how much these in-person interactions draw in consumers and create loyalty if a web site lives up to those initial in-store expectations.
A good experience online can bring shoppers into stores just as quickly: when a shopper makes a $100 purchase online, they are more likely to spend more (on average, an additional $131) at that retailer’s brick-and-mortar within 15 days. Retailers may not realize how impactful these blended experiences can be to their bottom line, but this type of conversion is a huge win for a brand — and one that can only happen if customers enjoy their experience online.
Online First, In-store After
In the digital age, it can seem easier for brands to put all of their efforts into developing an incredible web experience before even thinking about a physical storefront. Think about popular women’s lifestyle brands like ThirdLove or Glossier. Both of these brands gained reputations for having a pleasant interface and great customer experience online. By exceeding customer’s expectations digitally, they gained the momentum to open physical shops where their loyal shoppers could extend that experience in person.
Conversely, companies that have started in the physical space have been able to bring their following online as well. Think of Nordstrom: the department store has brought in consumers for years; who can now check online to see if an item is in-stock, in-store, and blend their experiences through multiple touch points.
What Emerging Brands Can Do
Brands breaking into the brick-and-mortar space have an incredible opportunity to create a standout online experience that will make consumers eager to continue the journey in-store. To do this successfully, brands must be familiar with a consumer’s online needs and pain points. In a physical store, retail employees can see when a customer is having an issue — like when the product they want is out of stock in their size, or on a shelf too high for them to reach.
Retailers need to be able to pick up on these struggles when they are happening online as well. Reacting quickly when customers are facing errors adding items to their cart or searching your site can be the difference in earning or losing their trust. The importance of having insights into the customer’s experience can’t be overstated, both online and in-store.
Mario Ciabarra is chief executive officer of Quantum Metric.
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