How to Bridge the Gap Between E-commerce & Retail

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The retail world is shifting like a pair of tectonic plates.

Originally published in Adweek.

One is erupting upward, with retail titans soaring to new heights and delivering innovative shopping experiences inspired by insight and fueled by data. The other plate is being pressured downward, with long-established stalwarts of the economy being driven to extinction. Toys "R" Us and Claire's are just the latest in a roster of 50 U.S. retailers that declared bankruptcy in 2017.

Consumers want, expect and demand convenience and ever-better customer experience. Retailers who resist this tide are drowning. Meanwhile, those that embrace it are building customer loyalty and experiencing revenue growth. Warby Parker, for example, has built a quarter-billion-dollar business on the back of its Home Try-On experience that lets you mail-order five pairs of glasses for free, pick the one you like and simply drop the rest in a mailbox or a store.

A telling set of statistics offers a hint into how retailers can innovate to enhance the customer journey. While 90 percent of sales are influenced by the web, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that 88.3 percent of sales still happen at brick-and-mortar stores. Marketers need to bridge that gap—which is why click and collect has become a rapidly growing trend in retail.

According to the Wall Street Journal, one-third of online sales at Zara are picked up in-store. WSJ estimates that 3 percent of customers use click and collect at Macy's and Nordstrom, 8 percent do at Kohl's and 40 percent do at J.C. Penney.

Clearly, having a strategy to accommodate this growing trend is imperative. And while every retail segment faces a unique set of considerations—mattresses are not the same as glasses; groceries are not the same as lamps—there are common considerations every marketer should consider when developing their own click and collect customer experience.

Get frictionless
Here's a news flash: Consumers don't care about your app strategy.

Sure, your most loyal customers have it on their phone. They might even use it regularly. But growth comes from new customers, and you need to sculpt your click and collect strategy along the contours of their lives.

Consumers want, expect and demand convenience and ever-better customer experience.
For instance, at Traction, we helped a premier consumer electronics retailer develop and evolve their click and collect experience for a series of product launches over the past five years. It's a seamless omnichannel experience: People can access it on the company's website in any browser on any device. They can customize their purchase but only based on inventory that's available at their local store. And they receive an email with a QR code so the retailer instantly recognizes them in-store, hands them their purchase and sends them on their merry way.

It's not just frictionless—it's slick. And millions of people have used it to streamline their customer experience.

Launch satellites
Right now there are over 2,000 Amazon Locker locations across 50 cities. I no longer have to make sure I'm home to sign for a package—I can just grab it from a locker on my way home from work.

Many retailers today are burdened by their physical footprint. Amazon has come up with a model that dramatically extends the reach and convenience it provides to customers without making a commensurate investment in real estate. In fact, it saves money on shipping costs.

How are you going to compete? Think about the true value of your unique customer experience. What is its essence? If you strip away your preconceived notions of what a store should look like, how could you still deliver that value?

Empower with customization
Often the act of shopping is an exercise of filtering and sorting. Customers need to navigate their way through the right department, the right shelf, the right color and the right size before they make a purchase. Retailers can leverage their click and collect investment to turn the work of shopping into play.

Give your customers the option to design their products with a digital experience instead of hunting for them in a store. You'll flip the chore of finding the right product on its head and make it a fun, personalized experience.

Embrace returns
Many retailers are facing the challenge of people buying online and returning in-store. Today's empowered consumers are going to interact with your business on their own terms, whether you like it or not. When it is not offered to them, they are literally hacking shopping experiences to get it the way they want. Embrace this as an opportunity to create moments of engagement, delight and even cross-sell with your brand, things you cannot achieve when returns happen at a post office or mailbox.

Map the moments
The growing popularity of click and collect shopping shows us that the line between commerce and ecommerce is blurring. Designing experiences to sharpen that fuzzy line can seem like an audacious and intimidating venture. Fear not—there is a methodology to the madness.

The ultimate goal is to turn insight into action, so start by gathering insights. Come up with a hypothesis to map the steps along the customer journey. This will involve both mining data and talking to actual customers (the journey will often vary for distinct personas). Then analyze and validate each stage to identify moments of friction and delight.

These moments are emotional gemstones, rich opportunities for you to enhance, amplify or eliminate steps in the buying experience. Those that do will be rewarded with happier, more loyal customers.

About the author
Adam Kleinberg

Adam Kleinberg is CEO and founding partner of Traction. He has written over 75 articles in publications like to AdAge, Adweek, Fast Company, Forbes, Mashable and Digiday.

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