Since the beginning of 2020, dramatic changes in the retail industry have resulted in ecommerce retail sales increasing by 29.1% in Central and Eastern Europe and 26.3% in Western European countries.
In parallel, eMarketer predicted that in the UK, brick-and-mortar retail will decrease in 2021 but still account for 62.5% of the retail landscape. Along these same lines, a recent survey by BigCommerce and PayPal found that over 40% of UK shoppers still prefer in-person shopping.
Going forward, it seems essential that retail businesses adapt their strategies to take a hybrid approach combining online and offline efforts to meet customers where they are and create a seamless experience across every touchpoint.
Here are some of the key steps to help gear you up for a successful hybrid commerce experience.
1. Prioritise fulfilment in physical stores
While click-and-collect, or buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS), was already fairly popular in the UK — with 64% of retailers offering it according to one recent survey — it lagged behind in the US and other European countries. Of course, once the pandemic hit, it skyrocketed in popularity with no sign of it slowing down any time soon. In fact, we’re seeing our merchants use it in creative ways to encourage shoppers to visit in-store.
For example, BigCommerce merchant Lammes Candies recently shared an exclusive offer for chocolate-covered strawberries where customers could order from the pre-sale online and schedule pick up in-store. This was a great way to use a website to drive online traffic in-store for exclusive deals since they weren’t offering to ship.
2. Create an in-store digital shopping experience
We are seeing a rise in shoppers relying on their smartphones for contactless payment options, such as digital wallets, both online and in-store. And in-store digital shopping experiences are also gaining traction. Although this concept isn’t new to many regions, shoppers now want the ability to pull out their phone, open an app and search for the exact location of the product they’re looking for.
If augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) never really took off how we all envisioned they would back in the late 80s and early 90s, they are now finally gaining traction because they can help shoppers make better, more informed product decisions — online and in-store. Fashion retailers can leverage AR on their ecommerce stores to help customers see how clothes will look on their bodies for instance — which is not only a great solution for differentiating the ecommerce experience, but it can also help reduce the number of returns for online sales.
3. Bring the offline experience online
Last year, we’ve seen a shift to virtual events and experiences, due mostly to COVID, but it does not take away that they are still a great way to build community, generate brand awareness and create unique experiences that previously might have only been possible in-person.
Virtual classes are now a good way to demonstrate how to use your products and interact with customers. Livestreaming can also allow users to see the products in detail and get their questions answered in real-time, something that can be integrated with ecommerce websites and social media apps such as Facebook Live Shopping and the popular TikTok.
Build an omnichannel strategy to deliver a seamless shopping experience
The lines between offline and online retail experiences are blurring, creating exciting new opportunities for businesses. Long-term success now depends on retailers’ ability to leverage current trends and focus on the omnichannel customer journey to deliver a seamless hybrid shopping experience across all touchpoints, on and offline (to learn more about omnichannel commerce success you find the, BigCommerce Omnichannel Guide here).