In-store or online – here’s how to keep your customers loyal

The advent of new technologies and new ways to shop has shaped the way customers buy. Many studies show a majority of customers would still rather shop in-store than online. However, a growing majority of customers are researching products online before they step foot in a store.

Another growing trend is for customers to research products online, visit the store to touch/feel/see the product, and then go back home to buy online, or even make the purchase from another retailer right then and there through their mobile phone. The industry has dubbed this “showrooming”.

What can you do?

For years, physical brick and mortar retailers despised showrooming. Maintaining a physical storefront is expensive. Furthermore, how do you compensate sales associates when they do the work, but the customer leaves to buy the product they just looked at in the store, online? These retailers fought against showrooming in a variety of ways such as stocking certain items in-store only, selling others only online, or offering discounts unique to the channel.

But is that a wise thing to do?

Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at Retail Systems Research, advises against it. Marketing spends a lot of money establishing a brand promise through their advertising and marketing messages, including their omni-channel offerings. An omni-channel strategy allows you to be connected to those channels where your customers shop, online and in person — and the easiest way to do this is by utilising a service such as Microsoft Dynamics.

“Any place where that promise is broken creates a real trauma for retailers, ” says Rosenblum. “Doing a channel-specific promotion breaks that omni-channel promise, and once that happens, it can be tough to regain a customer’s trust.”

People really are your #1 asset

So how can you show your customers how much you love them? Business management consultant Gallup’s 2014 report, The State of the American Consumer, suggests an intriguing answer: empowered, engaged employees.

Gallup research has found that… companies that engage both in their employees and their customers gain a 240% boost in performance-related business outcomes.

Translation: when customers and employees are engaged, customers buy stuff.

Gallup’s research gives some of the strongest evidence yet for the value of equipping employees and customers with digital technologies.

“Mobile devices give employees access to more detailed product information than ever before,” says Karen Garrette, global retail director, Microsoft.

“If the store doesn’t have what the customer is looking for, they can instantly see who does. Access to customer shopping and browsing history can even help them suggest alternatives or addition items the customer might like.”

The research suggests that this level of employee/customer engagement can more than compensate for a lower price the customer might be able to find elsewhere.

“Furthermore, when a customer feels loved and special, they want to return and they want to share that experience,” adds Garrette.

Learn more about how to incorporate omni-channel marketing into your strategy, and find a Microsoft Dynamics retail partner to work with you on the best solutions for your business.

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