Article | Last updated: 08 January 2020

Consumers don’t shop in-store like they used to. Nowadays, they’re more likely to turn to their smartphones to bag better deals. Retailers shouldn’t see this consumer behaviour as negative. Instead, retailers should take an omnichannel approach to their digital strategy to empower customers.

Customer Behaviour Is Forcing Retail to Change

There are more than 279 million smartphone users in Western Europe today, and it’s this mass of hyper-connected users that has retailers worrying that their stores will turn into nothing more than showrooms. 

To many retailers, it’s a common sight: a customer walks into the store, looks through the products and finally settles on something they like, only to take out their smartphone, scan the barcode and walk out. 

This can feel devastating. The customer has essentially used the store to look at a product, but they’re going to buy it from someone else – and they didn’t even try to hide it! 

With customers so well-connected, they are becoming savvier and less willing to settle for a specific product or price. At least, not when they have easy access to an online mega-mall of goods at discount prices to choose from. 

This is the reality for many retailers throughout the world, especially wherever Amazon has entered the market. Retailers are maintaining a degree of footfall, but sales are eroding – fast.  

However, instead of seeing smartphones and shifting consumer behaviour as the enemy, retailers would be better placed to view this behaviour as another channel through which to engage customers. 

How to Keep Customers Engaged In-Store 

Don’t take a fatalist’s view of customers who use their smartphones to shop while in your stores. Customers don’t shop linearly anymore, and your strategy needs to accommodate that. Here are a few tips to help you: 

  • Bridge the gap between physical and digital 
  • Take your strategy omnichannel 
  • Reconnect with your customers 
  • Turn your showroom back into a flourishing store 

Engage Customers at Home 

Customer expectations have changed. Information is freely available to any person with a smartphone, and they are using this freedom to scope out shops before they arrive. That means that the customer experience doesn’t start once they enter your store – it starts online from the customer’s home. 

In effect, customers are planning out their full shopping experience before they leave their home. They want to know simple things like your opening hours and to doublecheck the location. But they also want to know more complicated things, like whether the product they want is in-stock or if they can find a coupon to save money.  

Make sure you provide relevant information on stock, location, opening times and offers. To compete with eCommerce giants – who prioritise effective UX and provide a streamlined customer journey from search to purchase – you need to make information like this easy to access and as enticing as your in-store experience. 

Don’t Panic – Your Customers Want to Shop with You 

Just because your customers have taken their phone out, it doesn’t mean that they have lost interest in your store. Customers also check their phone to update their social media, message friends or, most interestingly, to find out more about your store. 

Google found that customers are four times more likely to search for the retailer they’re currently in compared to the next highest competitor. They are also six times more searches for the retailer than for “amazon”.  

Knowing that you should take steps to engage with your customers in new and exciting ways. First, overhaul your SEO strategy to ensure customers can search for your brand more easily. Then, why not survey your customers on what they search for in-store? Offer rewards like coupons or freebies to get a more representative sample. You’ll learn more about where your in-store experience is weakest and how to improve it with more digital experiences. 

Improve Communications and Customer Service 

A lot of customers search for more information on products they find in-store, so make it easier for them to find that information. For instance, online video plays a large role in the customer journey today, with customers looking up products to learn more about them before asking an in-store employee for help or purchasing the product. 

Acknowledge this customer behaviour in-store by encouraging customers to search for a product on your website to learn more about it. You can revolutionise your content marketing strategy to ensure customers come face-to-face with relevant content quickly, finding video tutorials and full product breakdowns in just a few clicks. One example of a great piece of content marketing to improve customer service would be a how-to guide for buying a product. 

Offer Your Customers More 

Finally, customers also go on their phones to search for nearby restaurants, cafés and much more (It’s not all about shopping!). Knowing that provides savvy retailers with an opportunity to reengage customers and keep them onsite for longer. 

Stores that offer “experiential retail” provide customers with answers to questions like “restaurants near me”. They bring the restaurant or café to the customer by offering food and coffee in-store, or by partnering with another brand. Other experiences could include workshops, where customers can learn how to make their own products or offering personalised products in-store. Department and flagship stores, including Selfridges or Dior in London and Adidas or O2 in Berlin, put engaging experiences at the center of their strategy, hosting events, VIP products, dining areas and more. 

Take Your Strategy Omnichannel Today 

These are just a few ways to empower your store in a digital world, re-engaging your customers with enhanced experiences. But there’s always more to do. Customers expect a consistent brand experience across every channel. To deliver that, you’ll need to overhaul your back-end systems to cement a truly seamless experience across every channel and between physical and digital spheres. 

For more on how to achieve a truly omnichannel experience, download our latest white paper today. Available free from CX2030, it details practical ways to upgrade your CRM and CMS platforms to deliver omnichannel.