Much more to online shopping than online buying

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While both the terms sound similar they are not. Online Shopping includes all activities starting from researching a product or brand, comparison with similar products using any device but not necessarily bought the product digitally; while online buying includes a purchase made digitally. A report by eMarketer demonstrated that there is a significant rise in digital or online shopping with 196.6 million people expected to shop online this year, compared with 163.2 million who will go on to complete a purchase digitally. Another report by Accenture demonstrated that consumers, have now merged online and offline into a single shopping experience. 78% people indulge in “webrooming,” or researching online before heading to a store to make a purchase, wherein some store trips eventually led to a digital purchase. 72% of respondents were also found to be “showrooming,” or buying a product digitally after seeing it in a store.

Delivering a channel-agnostic experience

Understanding multi-channel is about looking at customers’ shopping experience as a complete journey that starts with research and comparison, climaxes at the moment of purchase, and is followed by delivery and after-sales. At each stage, consumers can now choose from a range of different channels – from conventional bricks and mortar stores, to online websites, mobile websites and native apps with delivery options such as home delivery or even in-store pick-up. An experience that spans all of these different channels seamlessly is the one demanded by today’s sophisticated buyer.

Providing a harmonious and seamless experience across channels is the need of the hour. Here are some practical steps to help brands and retailers achieve multi-channel excellence:

Join the dots

Make sure that your marketing, promotions and merchandising are all aligned irrespective of the channels offering them. For instance, coupons received by mail are sometimes not accepted for online shopping, and shoppers are requested to visit the store instead. If these shoppers are given the convenient option of using the coupon code online as well, chances are that they will visit your site if not buy a product.

Mobile is not an option, but a priority

Mobile is an area which is largely untapped. A study by NCR demonstrated that 52% of consumers want mobile scan and pay, while only 12% of their favorite grocery stores offer the option (because of reasons such as implementation challenges and operational considerations).

Mobile services allow customers to search for stock and compare prices while in store or from home using mobile browsing, place orders and make payments. Retailers should look at exploiting mobile both in terms of consumer services and also in their own operations.

Social Media: A potential goldmine

A study on online retail habits of US shoppers by PwC demonstrated that although 33% of shoppers use atleast one or more social media networks, only 3% of them use these networks to shop (3%). This is because retailers are not utilizing social media as a channel to drive sales. Social media is done right is a potential goldmine for brands. Some global brands have realized this and are even doing innovative things such as utilizing virtual fitting rooms where customers “try on” different images of their products and share them instantly with social networks for real-time feedback.

The best advice for retailers and brands is to think of all the points of contact with their customers, look at their technology architecture and centralize to deliver what their consumers want, as well as how and where they want.

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