How to maximize digital and physical sales at the same time
There is a lot of turmoil surrounding physical and digital selling in the post-COVID world. How can brands make the most of these changes and challenges?
It’s no secret that global markets have changed during the pandemic. Just as the Industrial Revolution brought about changes in Western society’s values, shopping habits, and distribution of people and resources, the pandemic did the same between 2020 and 2022.
People who had never shopped online, or at least were reluctant, shopped for the first time. Amazon reports a 38% increase in sales for him in 2020. Major retailers have also invested in online storefronts and omnichannel marketing strategies to retain customers.
Some time away from the pandemic, the question arises: How and where will brands make their products available to consumers? Will customers shop primarily online today? What will the future of physical stores look like? How will in-store shopping coexist?
CMSWire decided to investigate these issues.
Outlook for digital and physical sales
In-store shopping was a popular choice pre-pandemic because it allowed consumers to get items quickly, return them if needed, and make the transaction more secure.
But according to NielsenIQ, the pandemic has changed 67% of shopper habits. And 92% of those who tried online shopping in 2019 moved to e-commerce. (McKinsey) One of the reasons for this change is that during COVID, businesses tried to negate the shortcomings of online shopping and instead turned to secure transactions, easy returns and fast shipping.
Morgan Stanley predicts that the e-commerce market will grow significantly over the next few years, growing from $3.3 trillion today to $5.4 trillion by 2026. For example, Insider Intelligence predicted 16.1% growth this year.
With predictions like these circulating and people returning to brick-and-mortar stores over the past few months, which of these suggested outcomes is more accurate? And what does that mean for your business? mosquito?
For purely online businesses, digital sales still appear to be on the rise, even in countries where online shopping was popular before the pandemic. But previous market growth may have been overstated, so it’s wise to play it safe by not expanding your business too quickly.
Annie Wissner, CMO of Avenue 10 and vice president of marketing for High Level Marketing, agreed. She said, “My personal view is that e-commerce as a whole will continue to expand and grow, but businesses need to carefully consider where and how they invest to support this future growth. there is.”
She pointed out that Shopify is laying off 1,000 employees (10% of its workforce). Shopify founder and CEO Tobi Lütke said in a memo that the layoffs were due to consumers resuming their previous shopping habits and curtailing their shopping online, which has fueled the company’s recent growth. said.
For companies looking to maintain a physical presence, this may seem like good news. But while people shopping physically again is a boon for certain brands, numbers are still far from pre-coronavirus levels, according to the Harvard Business Review. Brick and mortar stores still have to work harder for their customers, and perhaps even harder than they did pre-pandemic.
Related article: Can e-commerce be the antidote to ongoing retailer challenges?
Purchase point shift
When I discussed the issue with John McClymont, who has 15 years of experience in the distribution industry, he said it’s all about moving the point of purchase—the physical location where consumers decide whether or not to buy a product. said.
“Before the pandemic, I could just walk into the store and get what I wanted pretty quickly, so the store had an advantage in terms of purchases,” he said, confident that he could physically return the product if necessary. But he added that most customers don’t actually need the product right away.
“Today, consumers have been trained and accustomed to shopping online for the last three years. Easy purchases at the tap of a button, products delivered to your doorstep, and easy returns. This has given the online store an advantage over the physical store.”
Both online and brick-and-mortar stores have their own set of drawbacks that require different ways to navigate, so it makes sense for businesses to start thinking about how they can overcome these issues.
Omnichannel Customer Experience Leads to Sales
This is usually where the discussion about hybrid business plans takes place. Until now, companies have typically been one or the other. That meant putting more resources into physical stores and less resources into online stores. And vice versa.
Now in 2022, it seems appropriate to put equal resources on both sides of the business. The Internet isn’t going away anytime soon, and the aforementioned digital sales will only increase. This is all the more important given that Generation Z, the most tech-savvy generation ever, will soon start joining the economy en masse.
But at the same time, people still want to shop in physical stores.
How does a company balance both stores, and how do these stores drive traffic to each other? There are several ways to think about it.
Focus on omnichannel connectivity
Pre-COVID, depending on your business, having an accompanying app might sound extreme and unnecessary. We partner with companies such as Caviar.
While this option may work for some businesses, especially retail and data businesses, Wissner warns against relying on apps as the primary source of digital traffic for stores.
“Personally, I see mobile app fatigue among consumers. I prefer to download and not get stuck.”
Instead, companies should adopt an omnichannel strategy that leverages existing apps for social media, text and multimedia messaging, Wissner said. “That way, you can reach people directly on their mobile device using the apps they already use regularly.”
Anyway, having a good company website with clear POS options is now non-negotiable if a company decides to develop and use an app.
Omnichannel and seamless experiences
Ultimately, what your customers care about is a seamless and personal customer experience, whether your business is physical, online, or both.
The pandemic has made customers expect fluidity and ease between online and physical interactions. This has been repeated through QR codes, digital vaccine cards to check-in at venues, online orders to pick up goods later, and social media giveaway campaigns.
These expectations aren’t going away any time soon. Society is becoming increasingly tech-savvy, but customers still crave a physically grounded, personal touch.
One way to deliver a great customer experience, in addition to the ones already mentioned, is to implement an omnichannel marketing strategy. By embracing omnichannel, businesses can intentionally prepare their customers to enter the sales funnel from any point while providing a personal touch.
And the information overload that customers face can actually drive them back down the sales funnel. I have.
Wissner provided some great tips on how companies can implement an omnichannel strategy.
- Abandoned shopping cart programs encourage shoppers to come back and buy. These cases are common and growing every day, so it’s imperative that businesses selling online develop a comprehensive strategy to increase purchase conversions.
- Customer loyalty programs recognize your top customers and encourage them to keep buying. Offer special discounts, inside-track information, or early access to sale items.
- Customer surveys provide an opportunity for customers to voice their opinions and recommend modifications. The key here is to share the survey results with the participants and show the customer that their feedback was used.
On the other hand, McClymont had a few caveats. “Distribution, inventory and logistics have clearly been and will continue to be an issue during the pandemic. Customers return more when they shop online. If it impacts the customer’s wait time or fails to pick up the order, the purchase points are given to another company.”
Wissner agreed, saying it was of utmost importance for companies to track inventory across business channels.
“The key is to adopt a digital tracking system if you have experience in online retail,” she said. increase.
“If companies don’t want to invest in this technology, it will become increasingly difficult to straddle those two worlds in a way that doesn’t alienate or dissatisfy customers. It’s about reducing the amount of inventory on our online storefront and making it easier to manage.”
Related article: Scalable AI is the key to delivering great omnichannel experiences
Final Thoughts: Digital Sales in a Post-COVID World
This is the year that companies can finally get out of the pandemic wild and decide where best to focus their resources. Any business looking to maximize sales both digitally and physically should consider some of the above ideas.