Point Of Sale: Crossing the Bridge between Online and Offline Commerce

February 6, 2017 • 8 min read

By Tracy Vides

Shopping experience is a constantly-evolving entity. We currently live in an era where the latest items can be purchased online with a single click. Data from eMarketer tells us that eCommerce sales will touch nearly $2 trillion this year and that number is projected to double by 2020.

retail sales vs ecommerce

The gap between online and offline commerce is shrinking and retailers must examine how they can enhance the customer experience in both settings. The rise of eCommerce and mobile has drastically changed the way brands interact with consumers.

Entrepreneurs looking to enter the marketplace need to understand the evolving landscape to effectively target their audience. Here are some strategies to help find common ground between these two worlds.

Use Data to Personalize the Experience

In a world oversaturated by retailers doing everything they can to capture consumers’ valuable attention, brands need to design their web-to-store strategies to engage customers on a deeper level. Regardless of your industry, connecting online and offline commerce strategies should ultimately make the overall experience memorable and simple at the same time.

A great way to do this is by providing a personalized and contextualized display to connect with customers early in the buying process. Using behavioral, social, demographic, and geographic data, brands are able to create more meaningful content to connect with their audience.

For instance, a business suited to physical interaction, such as selling apparel has always posed as a significant challenge for eCommerce platforms. There simply is nothing that compares to actually trying on clothing in-store. One of the best approaches to this dilemma is to determine the consumer’s interests before they even walk in the door. The marketing team at Nordstrom uses social data to track Pinterest pins and identify which of their products are currently trending. With this information, they display those items in their brick and mortar stores as well as on their website with signage that encourages shoppers to purchase them.

nordstrom personalized ecommerce

According to an Infosys survey, 78 percent of consumers said they would be more likely to make repeat purchases from a retailer that provides offers based on their interests, wants, and needs. A smart POS such VendHQ helps you bridge the in-store-on-site gap in customization by tracking customers across the divide and maintaining a record of their journey and touchpoints in a centrally managed database. Using this data, you can offer people who have viewed your products on your site or app perks like personalized gift cards, store credit, or coupons when they walk around your physical stores.

Learning how to use the online realm of information to catch customer intent early and offering them personalized but consistent experience is a surefire way to earn customer loyalty and keep yourself one step ahead of competitors.

Bring the In-Store Environment to the Online Visitor

The nature of online commerce works to eliminate the need for customers to leave the privacy and comfort of their homes to shop. Here, merchants can merge the online and physical worlds can be merged to optimize the shopping and purchase process.

Brands like IKEA are working to bring the in-store experience directly to customers’ homes with augmented reality. IKEA’s virtual showroom allows customers to use their mobile device to display items as they would look in their own home. In turn, the consumer gets a hyper-personalized shopping experience without even needing to put shoes on.

ikea augmented reality online catalog

Augmented reality doesn’t just take the experience directly to customer, it seamlessly combines the digital world and real worlds to provide content on an extremely individualized level where the user can make informed decisions based on their wants and needs. The future for this technology is not just bright, it’s blinding! Revenue from augmented reality markets is expected to hit $120 billion by 2020.

Hack the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) creates an extremely vast field of opportunities brands can use to monitor customer behavior and spot trends and changes in their shopping habits. IoT consists of a collection of everyday objects connected to the network of networks, with the ability to communicate with each other. If various reports from Cisco, Morgan Stanley, IBM and Ericsson are to be believed, by 2020, there may be as many as 50 billion IoT devices in use. Brick and mortar stores can use IoT to their advantage to provide valuable, personalized content across the board.

For example, let’s say a customer owns an IoT refrigerator. The device can pick up data on certain grocery items as well as consumption habits. Using this data, a local supermarket could create ads that directly correlate to that specific customer’s food interests at the opportune time (read, when peanut butter is running out).

Brands are already using this technology to build incredibly unique relationships with their customer bases. Home Depot is doing a phenomenal job of making life easy for their shoppers with IoT by connecting customers’ shopping carts and wish lists with an in-store mobile app. When a customer who is a member of their Pro Rewards program enters the store, the app uses previous online shopping data to recommend certain products along with the best route through the aisles to find it.

home depot smart shelves

Just walking into Home Depot can be overwhelming and sometimes frustrating. With smart communication amongst smartphones, beacons, wearables, and smart shelves, the entire customer experience becomes quick and painless.

The concept of IoT may sound intimidating and raise a lot of privacy concerns, but this new frontier can do wonders in online commerce and marketing to make the offline experience simple and personalized for the consumer.

Parting Words

It seems as though the bridge between online and offline commerce is only going to get smaller as time goes on. Something that works one day could very well be obsolete the next.

Whether your business is online, offline, on-the-go, or all of the above, it’s essential to create a memorable customer experience while integrating a seamless point of sale wherever they might be. If you are interested in learning more about different options for point of sale systems, check out this recent article about the best point of sale systems for small businesses in 2017, “Best Small Business POS System 2017: Square vs. Lightspeed vs. ShopKeep.”

The biggest mistake companies can commit is failure to embrace the vast changes presented by technological innovation.

Originally published on Stitchlabs, December 28, 2016

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