While physical retailers do have their work cut out for them to stay competitive, that does not mean a digital storefront can simply sit still and collect money. Nothing, especially in retail, is ever that easy.
The brick-and-mortar landscape is shifting, and retail heavyweights are getting smarter and more effective at leveraging the advantages of physical space, like brand recognition, relationship-building through customer experience, and the ability to circumvent the shipping hassle.
Retail behemoths like Amazon, with its physical locations and recent purchase of Whole Foods, and Nordstrom, which made headlines last week by announcing a merch-free storefront, are poised to reshape the high-street experience.
In addition to a smarter physical retail landscape, new research suggests that many young people actually prefer to shop in store.
So, while e-commerce has been enjoying enormous growth, smart online retailers are anticipating how bricks and mortar will compete. It is plausible to think that in five years time, traditional retail can reclaim and leverage experience to gain some ground in the retail ecosystem. The pendulum can swing for e-tailers that are not paying attention.
So, how do online retailers anticipate the shift to better connect with their customers?
Here, are a few ideas:
1) Leverage real life touchpoints on Social Media
As a marketing tool, we began using social media to engage with our customers online.
But now, the most effective brands at social media marketing are using it as a vehicle to connect digital with physical.
For example, a local ice cream shop has a line around the block just so patrons can get an Instagram-worthy shot of the photo-ready treats, and salons are incorporating selfie-stations to encourage clients to share pictures from the venue.
So how do e-tailers, with no physical storefront, use social media as a way to strengthen connections with customers? Remember that just because you don’t have a storefront, doesn’t mean your customers aren’t interacting with your brand in real life.While not a purely digital retailer, HP’s presence at this year’s Forbes Women’s Summit serves as a good example. By sponsoring the event, they used it as a physical touchpoint with attendees, and then gave those attendees a reason to share the experience online.
They encouraged participants to think about ways to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, and provided a branded notepad so participants could record their thoughts before capturing the social media-friendly moment on camera.
2) Understand the power of packaging
One of the pitfalls of online shopping is the inability to take a purchase home the same day (at least until commercial drone delivery makes some headway). However, the anticipation that follows an online transaction does present an opportunity for savvy retailers.
Most of the time, a consumer is excited when an online purchase finally arrives on their doorstep, and a little effort on the part of the retailer can capitalize on the opportunity to strengthen a connection with a customer.
When customers receive an order, it’s another real-life touchpoint with a brand. A little attention to detail in packaging can go a long way, and it doesn’t have to cost retailers and arm and a leg.
Dollar Shave Club is a great example. They include humorous “Bathroom Minutes” with each shipment, that are full of fun grooming facts, jokes and riddles.
3) Use video to humanize your brand
With more than 1.5 billion YouTube users logging in every month, it’s no surprise that investing in video can be a great way to get in front of customers. But using video to connect with customers beyond simply entertaining or informing can take your video marketing game to the next level.
In the same way that we use video to connect with our out-of-town friends and family and to communicate at work, retailers are using video to build more engaging experiences through the purchase path.
“Consumers don’t want to be ‘sold.’ They want to be informed and feel ownership of their purchase decisions,” says Chris Savage, CEO and co-founder of Wistia. “The best bet for creating authentic video is to have fun and interact with the camera just like you would if you were talking to someone in person. Across our customer base, the most successful brands using video put this ‘real’ essence ahead of perfect video polish and it pays dividends in terms of customer engagement.”
Thanks to video streaming solutions like Facebook Live, retailers can humanize marketing efforts through authentic, off-the-cuff messaging that may resonate differently than polished advertisements.
Just remember to mind the length of your videos. While there is no perfect length, a Wistia survey suggests that engagement loss increases over time and reaches 17.3% within the first five minutes. One key suggestion is to make the introduction as short as possible.
Experience is today’s buzzword, but connection may be the buzzword of the future. An empty transaction doesn’t create a brand.
The feeling you get from interacting with that brand does. Whether online or physical, the retailer that creates the better connection will win.