Brick-and-mortar retail is not only alive and well in the age of e-commerce, but is poised to thrive in 2019. Successful retailers are driving traffic from online into the store and vice versa. It’s possible thanks in part to personalized, localized customer interactions powered by technology. The goal: fostering friction-free in-store shopping experiences that blend seamlessly with online transactions.
Here’s a quick look at how three retailers are doing it.
Setting Customers Free at UNTUCKit
The clothier UNTUCKit sets itself apart with shirts that are designed to hang out. Winner of a Breakout Retailer Award from Chain Store Age in 2018, the company has grown from a single store in 2015 to 50-and-counting today.
UNTUCKit uses a smartphone app to deliver friendlier service with more selection. For example, when a customer orders a shirt online and then walks into a store to pick it up, a store associate receives a notification that the customer has arrived so they can greet them by name at the door and perhaps suggest other purchases based on their past purchase history.
Customers at UNTUCKit stores also benefit from a virtual “endless aisle.” If they find something they like in the store that’s not in their size or preferred color, associates can access—again, on a smartphone—the inventory of every store and distribution center to help complete a sale that otherwise might not have taken place.
“If you add endless aisle and allow every store associate to access inventory regardless of where it is,” Stephan Schambach, CEO of NewStore, UNTUCKit’s point of sale vendor, said in a recent interview, “that is a 15-30% lift in revenue.”
Personalizing Online Shopping at Target
Since Target acquired delivery app Shipt at the end of 2017, it’s been busy expanding the service it provides throughout its network of stores. Groceries are the biggest sellers for Target customers shopping at home, with staples such as eggs, milk, and bananas topping the list, according to Supermarket News.
With Shipt, Target seems to have cracked the code for online shopping for grocery items. The key is an online shopping experience blended with dedicated in-store service. After placing an order through the Shipt app and requesting a same-day delivery window, customers receive a notification from a personal shopper, who then keeps the customer posted on his or her progress via text while filling the order.
The personal shopper can suggest alternatives to items that are out of stock, ask for guidance on color choices (for non-grocery items), inform the customer of any delays, handle last minute additions to orders, and more, before personally driving the customer’s order to their door.
The result is the kind of personalized service that brick-and-mortar retail does best coupled with the convenience of online shopping—with same-day delivery thrown into the bargain. Economist Panos Mourdoukoutas, writing in Forbes, says Target has “changed the game in the retailing industry,” and customers love Shipt.
A New Wrinkle on Receipts at GNC
The health and wellness retailer GNC takes another approach to blending the online and in-store shopping experience: digital receipts.
After making an in-store purchase, GNC customers receive a digital receipt that’s divided into three distinct sections. Up top is a promotion for the company’s paid loyalty program. Since adding that section, GNC has seen interest in the program increase tenfold.
Below that, in the section listing the customer’s purchases, links allow the customer to purchase subscriptions for automatic deliveries. 10% of customers click on those links.
Finally, at the bottom of each receipt are suggestions for other products the customer may wish to purchase, given his or her previous purchases. GNC has seen a 7% boost in sales for these products.
It’s all about personalizing the shopping experience, Jennifer Biefel, GNC’s Director of Customer Marketing & Loyalty, said in a recent Retail TouchPoints webinar. “We've been on a personalization journey,” she said, with the mission of boosting customer retention and repeat store visits. Along the way, the company has also seen a rise in online store engagement.
Investing in the Future
Reinvention of the in-store experience stands to benefit consumers and retailers alike in 2019, much of it thanks to technology-driven personalization and localization. But brick-and-mortar retailers must make the right investments or lose out to their online competition, concludes the Coresight report.