Retail stores around the nation are closing doors or adjusting expectations due to the increased threat of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). After several weeks of retail store traffic slowing, many are looking for alternatives to the ever-slowing showroom traffic. We are going to help you with 4 ways to turn your in store experience online.
Consumers Are Spending Time Online
In the wake of increasing measures to quarantine and flatten the curve of COVID-19, retail stores are experiencing slower traffic in the store. Foot traffic has dropped 50% in some areas while others are barely witnessing the direct impacts. But as MicroD surveys retailers around the country, we find that circumstances change. And change quickly.
To help our retail clients, MicroD launched a COVID-19 Response Program.
While this crisis is impacting the in store experience, MicroD has witnessed a bump in online traffic.
Consumers across the country are increasing their time at home. Whether it’s due to working from home during the crisis or supporting families that are quarantined from schools and child care facilities. This increase leads to more online browsing. Which means greater opportunity for online brands.
MicroD is here to help retailers leverage this upward trend in online traffic by elevating your online presence for online consumers.
Leverage the In Store Experience Online
Brick and mortar retailers are constantly finding areas of value compared to online e-tail-only brands. We report that more furniture consumers start the shopping experience online but travel to the showroom to finalize the purchase. There are tools and services available to shoppers through the in store experience.
But MicroD has identified and developed technologies that can take the in-store experience and bring it to your online store.
- Personalization Tools
- Online Chat
- Online Room Planner
- Advanced Product Configuration Tools
We’ll walk through these 4 tools that will turn your website into a fully functional online store for your online shoppers.
One of the more obvious benefits of shopping in-store is the personalization. A typical retail store will have sales staff covering the floor. Upon entry, customers get a greeting and some receive information about the store’s promotion. Guests in the showroom can have sales or design staff escort them through the store to find the item best for their needs.
This personalized in store experience online is challenging to replicate. But with personalization tools like MicroD’s iNGAGE module, your online shoppers will get the in-store personalization online. Online shoppers get the greeting, messaging about promotion, and guidance through the website as if they were digitally walking through your showroom. Think of it as virtual shopping on-demand. Here’s how it works:
A shopper lands on the retail website. The greeting appears to welcome the customer and tell them about the website features or promotions that will help the shopper make a decision. As this shopper browses the website, the online personalization tool tracks his behavior.
Personalize Online Experiences
For example, imagine that our example shopper visits the living room category page on this retail website that enables personalized online shopping. And this store just got a new collection from Hooker Furniture. The shopper will see a personalized notification showing there is a new collection with the most trending products available now. Our shopper can click the notification and view the items in the collection.
As he continues to browse through different types of sofas, the website can notify the shopper of a style quiz to help him narrow down the selection of sofas. Each answer to the style quiz would build a tailored style breakdown to match the shopper’s tastes. The website will even bring him to a page that showcases products most closely related to the styles that he likes.
Online personalization like iNGAGE is powerful for retailers who want to create the in store experience online. It gives your customers a sense of guidance and personal touch while interacting in the comfort of their homes. And unlike the showroom, this store is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No matter what quarantine circumstance happens. Plus, with the online personal shopping tools like iNGAGE you can always provide a sales or design staff-like role to your shoppers without actually having a live person available. The tool works without manual intervention from you or your team.
If you are interested in creating a live-shopping in store experience online, you’ll find tremendous benefits in our next tool.
Many companies implement online chat tools for customer service. It’s not a novel idea but there are hidden benefits of using online chat tools to create an in store experience online.
As a partner with the industry’s best chat tools, Podium and LiveChat, MicroD encourages our clients to implement this tool for their website. In our current climate of slower store traffic due to the coronavirus pandemic, online chat is more impactful than ever.
Benefits of Online Chat
- Offer one-on-one help to customers shopping online
- Connect with shoppers to engage personally
- Allows for a live shopping guide to help online customers
- Collect real-time feedback on your website or online experience
- Provide real-time answers to customer questions
- Removes barriers to communication online
Online chat offers a tremendous number of benefits for retailers who create a strategy for implementation. While it can be simple to start and easy to launch, the strategy takes time. MicroD retailers have the added benefit of a partner that will build a strategy for online chat with you.
If you have staff that is unable to be in the store because of any circumstances, you can staff live chat on your website with these team members. Some of our most successful retailers use chat tools like Podium and LiveChat to collect leads and follow up on the phone or email between store visits. In times of slow showroom traffic, chat functions as an extension of your retail store team. Utilize the benefits above and implement this for your website.
Using Online Chat After Hours
Even when your store is back to full steam after the crisis, online chat can serve as another tool to build customer engagement online after hours.
Your website is open 24 hours a day. When your showroom is closed, how will customers ask questions or get online shopping help from your experts? With an online chat tool, you can staff for several hours between different sales staff to monitor the inquiries on chat. This will give your team and your customers more chances to interact while the store is closed. Giving your team a greater opportunity to make a sale without the benefit of in-store interaction.
If you’re a MicroD customer who wants to learn about the LiveChat partnership with MicroD during the COVID-19 crisis, click here to read more.
Online Room Planner
Another benefit of shopping in the store is your chance to sell and upsell your clients based on feedback from your design team and sales team. But when your showroom is closed or you’re experiencing slow foot traffic due to quarantines or emergencies, how can you interact with clients who need design help?
The obvious solution is to create a design experience in store experience online. The online room planner tool creates an opportunity for your customers to view products in your catalog on their room plan. Studies report customers are more likely to make a purchase when they have confidence in the buying decision. Meaning if your shoppers aren’t sure the sofa fits, they won’t make the purchase.
How to Use the Online Room Planning Tool
Online room planners like the design tool offered by MicroD build in incredible features that mirror an in store experience online. In fact, many successful MicroD retailers use this online tool in the retail store for more interactive design consultations.
A powerful room planning tool online will incorporate all of the products in your catalog. That gives the online shopper every opportunity to browse the products and see the fit in their room design. An additional bonus feature of the online room planner is self-service. Clients can choose to build a room with products they identify throughout your website. When they want feedback from your team, they simply use the room planning tool to share the design and products with your store. Everything happens digitally. This means no matter where your team is, the customer can interact and share it with you.
To engage shoppers on your website, successful retailers can combine this online room planning tool with the personalization modules and online chat tools and create an in store experience online that matches.
Advanced Product Configuration Tools
For a more advanced retailer, MicroD offers a segment of tools that will take your online experience to the next level. These features are born from the close relationship MicroD builds with manufacturers in the home furnishings industry. And the fruits of those decades-long relationships are these onsite product visualization and configuration tools.
- Custom Product Configuration
- Product Draping and CPQ
Many retailers offer clients the opportunity to customize their furniture selections. When the stores are closed or customers are staying home, the online shopping experience can’t traditionally function in the same way. But MicroD built several tools to make the custom shopping experience in the store available online.
Custom Product Configuration
In a custom-furniture in store experience, manufacturers offer custom alternatives to a select number of products. Retailers often use the brand’s ERP or dealer extranet to produce this configuration after meeting with clients and building off a catalog book.
This process is lost online without custom product configuration. Now your customers can sit at home and configure a sofa to have the arm style, leg style, back selection and other details as they choose. And you can rest assured that they’re only building a product that your manufacturer can build. All rules are handled by MicroD’s engine.
Additionally, the customers who use MicroD’s custom product configuration can visualize the final product before it adds to your cart. This increases customer confidence and reduces the likelihood of returns. But what if your customers want to customize more than the framing?
Product Draping and CPQ
Custom product draping has been an asset at MicroD for many years. It builds on the foundation of visualization that started more than 25 years ago. This feature of our platform allows a configured product to show visualization and finish options. The same customer can sit at home in quarantine, custom builds a sofa based on manufacturing rules embedded in your website, select the fabrics and finishes for the product, see it live online with high-quality renderings, and place the order.
The functionality of this tool is the most closely related to an in-store shopping experience. And when paired with our previous tools mentioned, it can be replicated even better online than in-store. Bringing your team and customers together in a safe place to shop, design, and sell furniture. Plus with the addition of MicroD’s Custom Price Quote tool, the product can be accurately priced right online without needing your team to intervene.
Powerful Shopping In Store Experiences Online
MicroD is sensitive to the impact COVID-19 creates for retailers across the world. The online shopping experience can be more powerful than ever. And the implementation of these tools can supplement your in-store traffic and sales. With the right team and strategy, you can develop an online presence that exceeds the in store experience online during this time and any other after it. If you need assistance with turning your online store into an interactive, personal online showroom contact MicroD today.