Serving your online-to-offline customers

December 2017

As customer journeys become more complex - involving online and offline touchpoints supported by their mobile devices - it is more important than ever for retailers of all sizes to focus on delivering an omnichannel customer experience, writes Practicology’s Sam Gaunt.

In addition to the growing percentage of retail transactions conducted online, we have witnessed a change in customer behaviour that sees consumers routinely research and plan purchases online before completing them offline. Increasingly that research, planning and even ordering of items happens on smartphones.

Google and Practicology published a piece of research into the experience that 145 retailers across five European markets provide to their omnichannel customers: the Retailer Customer Experience Benchmarking Review. We used a set of benchmarking criteria to assess the ease-of-use of their mobile websites, and whether the service and technology deployed in stores also supported more complex customer journeys.

Here are practical steps that retailers can focus on to improve the omnichannel experience they deliver:

1. Help your online customers find your stores

Make it easy as possible for customers to find important information about their nearest store. Provide an easy-to-use store locator, allow visitors to find store directions, and show opening hours and click-to-call contact details on your mobile site.

52% of European retailers in our research provide clear directions and 41% provide click-to-call contact information on individual store details pages.

French retailer Sephora provides an excellent store finder that lets customers use their current location and allows them to filter the stores based on the services they offer.

2. Support your online to offline customers

Consumers can be disappointed when they identify a product on your website, only to find that it’s unavailable in store. Let your customers know where their chosen item is available by providing in-store stock information online.

48% of European retailers in our research show in-store stock information on product details pages, and 14% allow customers to filter products online to show what’s available in a specific store.

Norwegian retailer Power offers a best practice example of this, allowing customers to view online and offline stock as well as filtering product listings based on their immediate availability at a chosen store. This easy to use functionality lets customers either select a fulfilment option or pick up their item immediately in-store.

3. Promote online channels in-store

Call out your online channels in-store to alert customers to other ways they can shop with you. Advertise your website address, promote the use of your mobile app and clearly signpost your click-and-collect area in store.

39% of European retailers in our research clearly promote their online channels in-store with engaging calls-to-action, while 63% signpost the click-and-collect desk.

UK retailer Nike promotes its online channels in-store brilliantly, positioning call-outs on mirrors, windows and product rails. It also encourages customers to make a purchase in-store and receive a money-off voucher to be spent online, urging customers to shop using more than one channel.

4. Allow fulfilment through stores

The execution of the delivery and returns process is key to providing a seamless experience. Improve the convenience of your fulfilment proposition and encourage online customers to visit your stores by offering click-and-collect and allowing in-store returns for online orders.

67% of European retailers in our research offer seamless click-and-collect in all stores, while 70% allow all online orders to be returned in-store.

Using your mobile website to help bridge the gap between online and offline will provide your customers with a world-class shopping experience and ensures that stores remain relevant in this fiercely competitive trading environment.

Ask a Researcher: How do we decode the messy middle of the consumer purchase journey?