Ecommerce has grown tremendously in the past year, but one thing remains clear: consumers still like the experience of shopping in person. Although more and more shoppers are warming up to the idea of buying things online, reports show that many still prefer physical retail experiences. In addition, physical stores will continue to make up a majority of retail sales.
There’s no denying that there are advantages to having a brick-and-mortar store. The most successful online merchants, however, are able to leverage the aspects of physical stores that shoppers crave and create a digital shopping experience that equally delights and engages customers.
In this article, we go over some ways sellers can take inspiration from tried-and-true brick-and-mortar strategies to create a spectacular online shopping experience.
1. Evoke The Tactile Experience Online
In a brick-and-mortar store, shoppers value the ability to evaluate the look and feel of a product before they commit to a purchase. Unfortunately, the ability to directly determine whether an item matches one’s expectations doesn’t always translate easily to an online setting.
To provide the same caliber of experience, your online site must go beyond the bare minimum of simple product images. You can display things like branded videos, detailed lifestyle imagery, and compelling descriptions to give shoppers a compelling and comprehensive experience of your products. On your website, you can also incorporate interactive tools like product visualizers, dynamic product images, and augmented reality for shoppers to view the products in detail as they would in a physical store.
Even without a physical display, you have the opportunity to draw inspiration from a brick-and-mortar store and create the kind of shopping experience that can only be found online. Having strong online merchandising helps minimize friction and encourages customers to purchase on your website.
2. Provide Engaging Customer Service
Shoppers also like the “human touch” aspect of shopping in a physical store. The ability to interact with people one on one, ask questions, and receive immediate help is one of the hallmarks of a strong brick-and-mortar experience.
While you can’t have representatives physically present with customers, you can still enhance interactions and provide attentive service with a solid, human-centric customer support strategy. Make it easy for customers to contact people in your business and consider implementing a live chat, chat bot, or virtual appointment service to offer customers a more engaging level of service. This connection goes a long way toward building customer trust and boosting brand loyalty.
Customer service also extends beyond the purchase. After a purchase is made, you should provide order confirmations, delivery updates, and full visibility into orders to keep customers in the loop and recreate that immediate in-store checkout experience. You can make personalized product recommendations, share social proof and user-generated content, upsell relevant products, offer educational content, and encourage customers to join your email list to stay connected.
The more positive and authentic your on-site experiences are, the more customers will want to stick around. With ecommerce, you can go above and beyond in customer service and offer a layer of human connection that’s distinct from the in-store experience.
3. Provide a Seamless Return Policy
Another reason why shoppers like shopping in-store is easy returns. In ecommerce, shoppers generally can’t try out the products that they buy, meaning their expectations may not always align with the products they purchase. Shoppers also don’t have the immediacy of being able to return items in person. This could be a potential cause of online purchase friction.
To offer an appealing online return experience, you’ll want to ease concerns and make the process as smooth as possible for the customer. First, make sure you have a clear and flexible return policy. Your policy should outline all the details involved in returning a product so that customers know exactly what to expect, and there is less room for creating a negative experience.
Next, you’ll want to make it easy for customers to start a return and to send their product(s) back. Provide pre-printed shipping labels, offer exchanges and related products, and provide real-time updates and communication during every step of the way. A pleasant online return process will give shoppers confidence in your business, which is key to turning around a bad experience and helping your business generate more sales in the long run.
4. Prioritize User Experience and Design
Many brick-and-mortar stores focus on creating an environment that encourages customers to explore, discover, and complete purchases. This is reflected in everything from the way merchandise is displayed to how the store is organized. A physical store gives businesses the chance to create a captivating brand experience while strategically leading shoppers to their purchase. As an online seller, you also have the ability to dazzle customers through your user experience.
To keep shoppers moving through your site, you must create a strong first impression. This means having cohesive brand elements (font, images, colors, website copy), eye-catching visuals, clean website design, intuitive navigation, well-defined product categories, and a mobile-optimized layout. Your site should also incorporate search functionality and features so users can direct themselves to where they need to be on your site.
Like a well-designed physical store, a helpful, useful, and delightful website is key to getting users to take action—whether the customer knows exactly what they’re looking for or they're just browsing.
5. Provide a Memorable Post-Purchase Experience
A customer’s physical interaction with a product often starts with the post-purchase experience. In a brick-and-mortar store, customers are able to enjoy the instant gratification of taking possession of a product after a purchase. In ecommerce, however, there is an inevitable delay between when a purchase is made and when the customer receives the item. This can be a source of friction and stress for your customers.
Even if you can’t offer the instant gratification of a brick-and-mortar store, you can still offer a delightful and rewarding post-purchase experience that is of the same caliber as that of brick-and-mortar store. You can provide confirmation emails, delivery updates, package tracking, content on how to make the most out of the product, and branded custom packaging to differentiate your business and make customers feel confident about their purchase. You can check out custom shipper boxes on Arka that ensure excellent unboxing experience and level up sales. When a shopper feels that your business puts care into the post-purchase experience, they are more likely to come back to your business to shop again, which goes a long way toward building customer loyalty.
Invest in your website to deliver a spectacular online experience.
Even if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar store, your online business has a valuable opportunity to leverage the best aspects of in-person shopping and deliver an engaging, distinctive, and innovative digital experience. By investing in your website, you enable it to do the work of selling and marketing for your brand, directing customers toward the end-point purchase, and helping you to stand out and stay relevant in today’s ecommerce landscape.