Bringing the Richness of the In-Store Shopping Experience Online

Posted by Lisa Roberts at 11:52 am in Merchandising
cheesy stock photo - woman hugging pillow

The next time you’re physically shopping in a store, stop for a moment and watch the people around you. Let’s say you’re in a home goods store. You’ll see people touch items to see how they feel, lift them up or walk around them to see them from various angles, maybe sit down to see how cushiony a chair is or hug a pillow to feel how fluffy it is.

There’s a lot of sensory stimulation throughout the in-store shopping experience, and it’s because of these visual and tactile cues that shoppers are able to make informed decisions on the best purchase for their intended needs. But we’re going digital – all of us! And it’s important for retailers to bring the advantages of in-store shopping to the online world in a way that not only gives shoppers comfort in knowing they’ve made the right choice for size, style and fit, but also that they aren’t missing out on “data” that they can only get in-stores.

Accenture and Hybris recently released a study highlighting the expectations shoppers have for a consistent cross-channel experience and how potentially misaligned retailer perceptions and strategies are. Being able to view inventory across channels and locations, along with in-store-pickup, have become minimum viable capabilities for retailers. 71% of the shoppers expect to view in-store inventory online, and 50% expect to buy online and pick up their purchase in a physical store. Yet, only one-third (36%) of the retail decision-makers surveyed said that their companies are able to provide customers with in-store pickup, online visibility of cross-channel inventory, and store-based fulfilment of online orders.

The study also pointed out that the omnichannel “experience” has become a brand differentiator. This goes beyond just inventory visibility; how do you bring the inspiration and information to the online shopper that extends the sensory experience they are having in the store?

For our client Crate & Barrel, this meant exploring their customers’ in-store shopping behaviors to fully understand the questions they ask about specific categories of products, the language they use with the store associates, and product characteristics they connect with by interacting with a product. We learned a lot! For instance, we noticed that shoppers tend to pick up pillows and turn them over to see the pattern or fabric on the back. This is information that was found buried in some of the online product details pages, but it was not an attribute or preference that a shopper could actually search for or navigate by.

Edgecase worked with Crate & Barrel to add new “Back Color” and “Back Material” attributes to their product data, and now their shoppers are able to navigate and express their preferences for this important product detail. The overall results of this approach have been great for Crate & Barrel.

We’ve gone through similar activities with other clients, potentially visiting a store as an actual shopper or getting the opportunity to interview savvy store associates. Our goal is to “think like a shopper” on our client’s behalf, and then integrate the enriched product vocabulary we help derive into the shopping experience…beyond just the product page.

Bridging the online/mobile/store shopping experience is not going to be a small feat. It has to go beyond the no-brainer transactional features and extend to actually connecting the “experiences”. This includes the act of browsing and discovering online and offline, and both have to feel natural, relevant, and inspiring to the shopper. Retailers have the opportunity to address this need and challenge or remain behind the shopper expectation curve.

To see product data discrepancies for top retail categories, check out our whitepaper on Evolving Merchandising to Bridge the Shopper Communication Gap.

lisa roberts

Lisa Roberts is a 15-year Ecommerce vet who’s worked with technology innovators, including Edgecase, who are building real solutions for hard retailer problems. Her experience working inside a retailer, agency-side and vendor-side give her a unique perspective on how to innovate at the pace of consumer evolution while remaining focused on delivering proven results.

Follow Lisa Roberts on Twitter @lisadoesaustin

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