E-commerce is an increasingly popular option that puts many brick and mortar business owners at risk. According to a study by NPR, 69% of Americans have made at least one online purchase. Online shopping offers many benefits that some brick and mortar businesses just can’t keep up with, such as: convenience, saved time, and product variety.
Yet, the rise of e-commerce doesn’t mean the death of brick and mortar businesses. A majority of Americans still prefer to shop in a store, including 56% of those who shop online. The key to maintaining that consumer preference of in-store shopping over online is to provide a great customer experience and try to match the very traits that make online shopping so appealing.
Keeping up with e-commerce
For brick-and-mortar merchants, it’s important to understand customers and what they want. The traits that make online shopping so attractive are the traits that may be lacking from your own business. While it’s important to try to address those as much as possible, it might also be unreasonable due to added costs or lack of time.
But finding ways to upgrade your business is essential to keeping up with e-commerce and ensuring the survival and success of your business. Try to find short-cuts or cost-effective methods to give your customers exactly what they want, and bring their business back to your store.
Importance of customer experience
Your customers are one of the most important parts of your business, so ensuring they have a positive experience will give you an advantage over e-commerce businesses.
The “customer experience” is, essentially, the impression your business makes on a customer. Depending on if your business meets, fails to meet, or even exceeds customer expectations, that impression will affect the way they think about your business.
A positive customer experience is ideal, and occurs when you meet or exceed expectations. Positive experiences earn your business a good reputation and succeed in drawing in new customers. But more importantly, they turn first-time customers into repeat customers, encouraging loyalty and giving you a reliable customer base.
With a solid customer base, you don’t need to worry as much about e-commerce drawing your customers away because their loyalty to your business will overcome the simple conveniences that online shopping may offer.
Creating a positive customer experience
As stated previously, perhaps the best way to create a better customer experience is to look at what customers find so appealing about online shopping. Listed below are some of the motivating factors for online shopping, as discovered by the NPR study:
39% of online shoppers state that the speed with which they need a certain item is the most important determining factor in choosing e-commerce over shopping in-store. For most customers, it is faster to complete an online transaction and have it shipped directly to them, than it is to go out to a store, make sure they have the needed item, and then return home.
Convenience is extremely important to shoppers, and is often the deciding factor in whether a customer chooses to buy online or in-store. Here are some of the most important convenience factors and the percent of customers who find that factor important:
- The ability to shop day or night – 88% of customers
- The ease of finding items they are looking for – 88% of customers
- The ability to save time – 84% of customers
- The breadth of product choices – 84% of customers say that it is the breadth of product choices.
Online is preferred in this case, because customers can purchase items anywhere they go, at any time.
Hate standing in lines and dealing with people
Shopping online also offers the unique advantage of no lines and not having to deal with people. 78% of customers say that this is a factor in their decision to shop online, though it is not considered to be as important as speed and convenience. With most stores, there is probably a line or at the very least, your customers will have to interact with employees or other customers. Online shopping offers a sort of escape from those inhibiting factors.
Self service for a better in-store experience
Acknowledging your customers’ needs for speed, convenience, and the avoidance of lines and people will help you provide a better customer experience. Now, you might be thinking… incorporating those factors into your business is easier said than done. But what if it isn’t?
Self service kiosks are a relatively new technology that allows your customers to interact directly with your business without assistance from an employee. Customers can place an order, make a purchase, or retrieve information through the kiosk, giving them more control over their in-store experience. The best part? Self service kiosks address all three factors stated above:
Customers can search for the items they need by looking through your business’s inventory. If your store has the item, they can view the location and go retrieve the item. If it’s not in stock, customers can place an order and receive it at their desired location. Transactions are fast and easy, whether they are making the purchase in-store or ordering it for delivery.
As stated before, customers can easily find the items they are looking for by searching the business’s inventory at the kiosk, saving them a lot of time by not having to search the entire store. The ability to search inventory and place orders directly is also convenient, as it gives customers their desired breadth of product choices.
Hate standing in lines and dealing with people
With self service kiosks, lines will move more quickly, as transactions are simple and easy to complete, allowing more customer traffic to pass through. The kiosks also allow customers to avoid other people, as they don’t have to interact with employees and their time around other customers is limited.
Self service also has the unique advantage of helping you build stronger relationships with your customers. Artificial intelligence learns about your customers through every interaction. Data is collected and stored in a customer profile that contains contact information and information on their desires, frustrations, and preferences. This profile can then be used to personalize your customer’s experience at the kiosk, or for targeted marketing.
Machine learning capabilities help you optimize your business’s success by analyzing past performance and determining areas of improvement and what is doing well. This way, you can more accurately pinpoint problem areas and implement solutions.
Customers prefer in-store shopping but often resort to online shopping because it offers speed, convenience, and the ability to avoid lines and other people. But by capitalizing on the customer experience and addressing those three needs, brick and mortar business owners can ensure the continued success of their business.
Self service kiosks are capable of providing speed, convenience, and the avoidance of lines and other people. It also uses advanced technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to create stronger customer relationships, improving customer acquisition and retention rates.
Using a self service kiosk at your business will give you an advantage over e-commerce and help you grow your business.