Many retailers are watching shoppers start to slowly come back into the retail store. But this customer is coming armed with information and a purpose. They’re informed by what they’ve discovered online. And for many furniture retailers, this is a great benefit. For others, it will highlight the gaps in the digital presence. Because the customer journey is not only starting online for the majority of shoppers. But it’s also the primary channel your buyers will use in making the journey to purchase. For these shoppers, you need to identify the best ways to engage retail shoppers online. And that’s what we’ll cover in this article.
Customer Experience After COVID-19
Think of the customer journey like an iceberg. The part you see above water is like the customer’s experience inside your brick and mortar. It represents their decision to walk in your store, pick a product to purchase and make the transaction. But just like an iceberg, the majority of this interaction happens below the surface–it starts and stays online. Everything that happens before they walk in your store is the online shopping journey. It is the bottom of the iceberg. And in the post-pandemic world of retail, that bottom of the iceberg represents about 90% of the shopping journey.
Some of your customers are looking for exclusively online shopping experiences. Others want to make a trip to the retail store—but only when they’re ready to spend very little time in the store. Which means they want to make the decision on the product before they ever walk into the store. No matter which type of customer makes it to your online store, you need to create an engaging experience to close the deal. That means close the deal on the website or close the deal in your store. Your online experience and how you engage retail shoppers online will be the deciding factor.
Let’s review some techniques that will transform your online customer experience for better conversion.
Using Chat Tools to Engage Retail Shoppers Online
Unless you’ve been living in total isolation, you know that chat has been a big winner during the pandemic. Much like Zoom did for the corporate world and social circles, chat tools revitalized the communication channels for retail.
Chat is a powerful tool to engage retail shoppers online. When customers do make it to your website, it’s been a journey to get there. Something triggered their interest to visit you over other retailers. But it’s not guaranteed to turn into a sale. That’s where chat interaction can be a great engagement and sales tool.
Successful retailers use their sales staff to cover the chat tool during certain shifts. It lets your team stay connected to shoppers while the store is closed or slower than other times. If your staff is unsure of chat benefits or not confident with the application, here are some ways retailers use chat successfully:
- They can interact with customers by answering questions
- Guiding them to helpful resources on the website
- Explaining the benefits of certain products
- Providing details on current promotions
- Schedule future appointments in the store for a private, socially distant visit.
- Close the deal and take payment right over the chat tool
Some of these benefits may not work for your store but there are a myriad of ways you can use this as a placeholder for the in-person interaction in the store. And it will serve your customers with a personal service that they would otherwise not get from other stores. If you want to stand out locally for the best quality of service during and after the pandemic, look to tools like chat to help.
Tell Your Story with Advertising
Advertising shouldn’t stop just because your regular schedule is on hold. In fact, many retailers made a few adjustments to their digital advertising to make use of the vast amounts of online browsing. Bringing online traffic from local shoppers was a challenge before the pandemic for some retailers. But when others took a strategic approach with their advertising, the traffic followed.
We recently heard from retailers who noticed an uptick in search for outdoor casual furniture in the area. These retailers took to their advertising and told the story of their casual furniture collections. They were able to target the local audience searching for casual furniture and interact with them through the content. These visitors turned into shoppers right on the retailer’s website. And it all started with monitoring a trend.
Your store can and should be using digital advertising to promote your big Memorial Day promotions. Even if you can’t serve the customers in the same way, use your online tools like chat to schedule appointments or virtual showings of the sales items on your floor.
Interact on Social Media
While many shoppers were in varying states of social distancing, they took to social media. It’s where many brands got the opportunity to keep customers informed about their store information. Using your social media channels to interact with customers online gives your local community a chance to engage with your store. Retailers can be successful with opening direct messages with local shoppers to share information, product inquiries, and even take orders through message apps on social media. But it doesn’t just revolve around the sale.
Social media has always been a central lifeline between brands and the people that support them. During the crisis, retail stores could show videos and go live from an isolated showroom to give customers a virtual walkthrough of the new collections in store. It gives your store a chance to inform shoppers about the products in your store. But it also gives the shopper expectations and understanding about your store’s social distancing practices.
Shoppers returning to retail stores will still be hesitant to fully interact with your staff. So using social media to go live, record videos, share photos, and announcements about the store or products will give your clients a way to engage between visits.
Improve Your Phone Sales Tactics
Believe it or not but phone calls from your website are incredible points of engagement with shoppers. In fact, retailers across the country have noted phone sales increased dramatically during the pandemic. Customers were finding the store online, reviewing products on the website, and making a call to the store for more information.
And retailers who spent the time improving their phone sales tactics reaped the benefits. Phone calls to the retail store are critical to digital commerce. Retailers who track these conversions see better results than those retailers who aren’t proactive with phone sales. While it may not be profitable to create an entirely dedicated team for phone sales today, it should be a primary focus for your online engagement. Yes, phone calls are part of online engagement. It’s your first opportunity, without on-site chat, to control your interaction with the customer.
If you have a sales staff with availability, staff the phone lines. We’ve heard from retailers who increased sales during the pandemic about this strategy. They’ve set up a commission structure to benefit those who staff the phone lines. This creates a unique incentive to close the customer over the phone. And many retailers not using this strategy today could easily adopt this process.
Virtual Design & Appointment Setting
We’ve discussed a lot of valuable ways you can connect to customers online during this unique period of the pandemic. And one of the most valuable ways you can keep the interaction alive from online to the store is appointment setting.
Encourage your team to use every opportunity online as a chance to set a private appointment in the store. Every retailer who continues to see business come in has made that effort to engage retail shoppers online from ads to chat to social media. And they have turned those opportunities into appointments in the store.
Whether your store is a custom furniture shop or a promotional retail store, you can practice safe shopping guidelines and tell your customers about it. Today’s retail shopper wants to feel confident in their buying process during the uncertainty of COVID-19. So your forward-thinking message focused on that socially-distant shopping experience will set you apart from the rest.
Engage Retail Shoppers Online
We hope that you’ll apply some of these techniques in your store during the recovery from COVID-19. Engaging your furniture shoppers online will help your store bounce back and stay strong for any future. If you have any questions or would like to talk about how you can do this in your store, please contact MicroD.