E-commerce continues to grow at the expense of many physical store sales. However, there is a silver lining: People still love to shop. In fact, more than 92 percent of sales still happen in brick-and-mortar stores, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Yet there is no denying how digital has transformed the way people shop. Customers expect a more personalized and engaging shopping experience, both online and in-store. Recent advancements in touchscreen technology, combined with newer responsive websites from retailers, can now bring all the benefits of online shopping into the physical store. Retailers are already seeing a measurable sales impact from giving shoppers this “best of both worlds” experience. Despite the popularity of online retail, brick-and-mortar stores are still the preferred shopping spots for most consumers. According to PwC’s most recent annual consumer survey, nearly 40 percent of consumers made a purchase inside a physical store at least once a week, compared with only 27 percent doing so online. Survey responses also suggest that more consumers are using retailer websites as virtual showrooms to decide which items they want to compare for later in-store purchase. One benefit that brick-and-mortar stores will always have over online retailers is the ability for the consumer to see, touch, taste and try things before making a purchase. So it is important for retailers to create a consistent experience from the keyboard to the cash register.
Retailers already have all the content they need
E-commerce has completely transformed the way consumers shop, prompting retailers to launch responsive websites that scale to fit on any device, be it a phone, tablet or desktop. Now, these websites can easily be ported onto a fourth device that is beginning to emerge as arguably the most important for retailers: the in-store touchscreen.
By bringing the website in-store, retailers are creating an instant omni-channel experience while extending the value of current marketing investment with little adjustment to existing content. Instantly, the retailer’s entire inventory is available with “endless aisle” product selections, and consumers have a consistent experience both online and in-store. For sales associates, the retailer’s website – once considered competition for commissions – is now a key asset to maximize in-store sales. You don’t have what the customer wants in stock? Not a problem; customers can order the item on the in-store touchscreen, swipe their credit card through an attachable EMV reader, and the store can ship it to their home. As an extra incentive, some stores offer free shipping on items purchased “in-store-online,” giving shoppers another incentive to visit the physical store. More store visits mean more add-on sales and deeper brand relationships.
A side-by-side shopping experience that’s not uncomfortable
It’s impossible and unwise to predict which customers want help from sales associates and which customers prefer to shop or browse on their own. Beyond demographics and predictive analytics, this can depend on the shopper’s mood or schedule on any given day. With new in-store e-commerce formats, shoppers can choose whether to help themselves or ask for assistance.
More than 80 percent of consumers research products online before making a purchase, but sales associates may be ill-equipped to answer questions or offer input on these offerings. While some retailers have handed out tablets to sales associates, it is often socially awkward to huddle around an iPad, or worse, the customer’s own phone. With large-format touchscreens, sales associates and customers solve shopping problems together in a less transactional, more personalized way without being too close for comfort.
Early learnings to guide in-store e-commerce implementations
While learning is continuous in any new format, there are some key takeaways that remain consistent. First, make sure the store and the sales associate get credit for in-store-online sales. This makes the e-commerce site and interactive touchscreens a friend, not the competition. Not only do the in-store touchscreens become an endless aisle of sales opportunity, store associates also will be training themselves simultaneously on the store’s online offerings. Screen sizes can vary, with some models as small as 10 inches and as large as 70 inches, enabling retailers to create a wide range of customer experiences. Larger models draw in shoppers with big, visually powerful images, whereas smaller models can highlight certain product categories, facilitate a comfortably private experience or allow side-by-side associate-assisted browsing. Depending on the size and complexity of the store, various touchscreens may show the entire e-commerce site or be restricted to the appropriate category fitting that section of the physical store. Retailers are also adding small-to-mid-size customer-facing touchscreens at the cash register, making use of the final interaction with the customer before leaving the store.
Payment options should be made secure, easy and intuitive. A PCI-compliant credit card EMV reader attached directly to the touchscreen gives a familiar way for shoppers to pay for their in-store-online basket. The availability of smaller reader sizes hitting the market makes this easier than it was in the past. Scanners can also be attached to the screens for mobile pay and near field communication (NFC). Receipts are typically emailed, but can also be routed to a central printer if desired. Payment at the screen has the additional benefit of allowing shoppers to avoid checkout lines if they purchase via the in-store e-commerce site.
Touchscreens are no longer luxuries that only the biggest retailers can afford, and the potential to create a more engaging shopper experience extends the technology’s value far beyond the initial price tag. Rather than fight e-commerce, retailers can further leverage this investment to blend the online and in-store shopping experience in a modern and seamless way to increase sales.
Featured article written and submitted by Craig Witsoe, CEO, Elo