The world of retail has changed.
The global pandemic has thrown everybody’s shopping habits into disarray. Stores have been forced to up their online game or be left behind. Furthermore, it seems increasingly likely that things won’t go back to exactly how they were – even “post-pandemic.”
Several surveys seem to suggest that consumers intend to continue doing much of their shopping online. However, on the flipside, footage of post-lockdown queues at “bricks and mortar” stores proves that there’s still a considerable craving for the in-store shopping experience.
So what do you do about this, as a retailer? The answer is simple: You need to give your customers what they need both online and in-store. This article gives you several pointers to help you achieve that effect and demonstrates how a well-chosen POS system can assist.
Ensure you Provide a Consistent Experience
There’s one thing you absolutely must get right: consistency. This applies to everything from your product range to your branding.
Every time a customer wants to buy something, they have a choice: They can venture to the shops or open their web browser. If you want to please your customers, you need to offer the same, fluid experience, regardless of the choice they make.
With this in mind, it’s well worth choosing a POS system that can handle both the in-store experience and the eCommerce side of the business. Square is a good example of a point-of-sale system built with this in mind. You have the option of building an eCommerce store within the solution or using integrations to link up with your existing web presence.
Having your systems all within one solution (or well-integrated) helps you ensure you don’t offer an inconsistent experience. For example, you need to ensure customers can easily access the same products regardless of how they decide to shop at any given time.
Show Stock Availability
A big part of offering a seamless customer journey is providing accurate and up-to-date stock availability. Customers who can easily see that their nearest store has what they want may well decide to make the trip (and hopefully buy other things during that visit).
A good example of this done well is the UK retailer, Argos. By basing all their availability checks on the customer’s location, they offer a whole range of options – from same-day deliveries to “click and collect” services.
Offer “Click and Collect”
“Click and collect” has become increasingly popular recently, and provides a useful hybrid option between online shopping and having customers visit your store.
Thankfully, POS system manufacturers have been alert to this trend, with many now offering specific features to assist. Mobile payment processing facilitates curb-side collection, for example, and gives customers a way to visit stores that they may be more comfortable with in this “new normal.”
Learn About your Customers
Every time a customer browses your online store, you have the opportunity to learn more about them. You can see which products interest them, and with wish list functionality you can take this even further, knowing exactly what they’d like to buy at some point.
You can use this knowledge to delight your customers. After all, who wouldn’t want to know if something on their wish list was available at a reduced price?
Some POS systems really excel in this area, with Oracle’s SuiteCommerce InStore being a prime example. (This can be an internal link – I’ve written the review – but I can’t include the link here as the review isn’t published yet).
Encourage Visits to your Store
There is much to be said for actually getting customers through the door of your store. They can feel the products, immerse themselves more in the brand and – let’s face it – be more inclined to opt for impulse purchases!
You can always build on your online relationship with customers by encouraging in-store visits too. Options include sales, special events, and exclusive opening times for loyal shoppers.
Once again, the more your POS system can help you learn about customers, the more you’re in a position to offer the right incentives to tempt them.
Offering delivery services is obviously a “no brainer” when it comes to eCommerce, but it is possible to take things a step further.
If you run a shop that primarily serves a local area, there’s nothing to stop you offering a local “in person” delivery service. Plenty of businesses have had huge success doing this during lockdowns.
If you choose a point of sale system with mobile payment, you can even process transactions on people’s doorsteps. And there’s also nothing to stop you running this kind of local delivery alongside a nationwide or international option that uses couriers and postal services.
Make Use of Loyalty Features
Customers love to be recognized and rewarded for their loyalty. Almost every modern point of sale system offers some level of customer loyalty functionality – but it’s well worth taking the time to see exactly what’s provided.
Most specifically, you’ll want to ensure that you implement a loyalty system that’s effective both online and off. For example, you don’t want to have to tell customers that the points they’ve accrued from online purchases are meaningless in-store, or vice versa. That’s a surefire way to turn a loyal customer into an irritated customer.
It’s wise to try to make this all as seamless as possible, to ensure that a high-spending online customer is always recognized as that if they decide to visit a physical store. It’s likely not hard to think of your own examples of companies that do this well, and others that really don’t.
With customers becoming increasingly comfortable with online shopping, it’s likely it will take more to get them through the door of your physical premises. The answer to this is to make your brand experience as flawless and consistent as possible, regardless of how a customer chooses to shop at any time.
By choosing the right POS system, you can gain access to features specifically designed to respond to these evolving trends. Your competitors are probably upping their game, so it’s important that you do it too.