This article originally appeared in TWICE.
Customers now have more choice than ever in making informed purchasing decisions, and the consumer electronics industry in particular is seeing an interesting balance between in-store and online sales.
According to a PwC study, while most respondents said they prefer to research and buy CE online, “a healthy 26 percent still prefer to research and shop in-store.” What’s more, nearly one in four respondents who research CE online then go to a store to buy the product.
It’s clear there’s still a place for brick-and-mortar, and retailers that want to differentiate themselves from their physical as well as e-commerce-only competitors are using their physical stores to create enriching brand experiences. The revitalized trend of experience-based shopping is a way to capitalize on existing retail space and change how customers see a retail store – less as a fulfilment center and more as a place of learning and community.
To successfully execute this type of environment, thought must be put into the physical space and how customers will be served by the sales associates that staff these stores.
Mobile technology supports these experiences in meaningful ways.
1. Associates have more knowledge at their fingertips, allowing them to focus on the customer.
By providing a central location for all relevant information, the associate is able to spend more time with the customer in a more natural, personal interaction. With access to unlimited product information, customer knowledge, store catalogs and more, the associate does not have to worry about what question a customer may have, knowing that they will be able to answer it with a high level of service.
A recent Tulip Retail study shows that while the majority of customers today expect associates to use mobile technology on the sales floor, that figure jumped to 80 percent in only two years. Properly employing mobile technology is not only a great way to meet customer expectations, but it also fosters a memorable experience for them, which goes a long way to building a relationship.
2. The brand narrative is strengthened.
Customers are increasingly data-savvy and self-reliant when shopping, and retailers should recognize this by trying to create a store environment that isn’t solely a sales exercise. By using mobile technology as a relatable platform to convey the brand’s story, customers also see the retailer as progressive because they are using modern techniques to add value to the customer experience.
Neil Blumenthal, co-founder of eyewear maker/direct-seller Warby Parker, remarked “We believe that retail and shopping in general are a form of entertainment.” Shoppers see shopping as more than just a means to an end, and retailers that keep up with a strong brand narrative using modern tools will be rewarded for it.
3. It’s easier to deliver personal experiences.
Personalization is the number-one capability that over 60 percent of retail executives say is missing from their stores, a TimeTrade survey showed. Of course, online retailers perform various forms of personalization; however, they all lack the opportunity to personally engage a customer in a live, immersive experience.
After initiating a positive shopping experience, store associates can create a profile of the customer’s preferences and shopping habits, bringing value and incentive to return to the store.
Retailers who can align their strategies to support an increasingly tech-savvy consumer base will find it easier to succeed in today’s market. Brick-and-mortar stores need to offer more than just a selling environment; to succeed, they must focus on their brand narrative and develop more personalization from the customer’s point of view.
These goals can be realistically achieved by equipping sales associates with mobile technology on the sales floor, leading to an increase in both sales and loyalty from customers.