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Retail commerce | Marketing

Incorporating Digital into Your Shop Is Easier Than You Think

image: Retail shoppers walking outside a store with shopping bags
Even without beacons and apps, your bricks-and-mortar store can win the showrooming wars

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em: That's the attitude savvy bricks-and-mortar retailers are adopting regarding ecommerce and showrooming—consumers visiting a store to see and feel a product in person, then shopping via their smartphone or computer for the best deal.


Banning smartphones from your physical store is impractical, to say the least. Fortunately there are other ways to win the showrooming war without destroying your bottom line with a price war.


One note: While beacons (also known as iBeacons) have been hailed as a key weapon in the digitalisation of bricks-and-mortar retail, we're not going to discuss them here. Devices placed inside a store that can detect the presence of a shopper with a smartphone or tablet and via WiFi send immediate, personalised messaging to the retailer's app on the shopper's device, beacons are complex and controversial enough to require an article of their own. Besides, the following tactics can be just as effective:



Make your signage work harder.

Have certain products been featured on blogs or in magazines? Flag those products with labels or shelf talkers calling out the information. What items are featured most on Pinterest boards? Call those out too—you might even consider creating a special display of each week's most-Pinned products. Do some products have an especially intriguing backstory that might encourage sales, or are certain questions repeatedly asked regarding certain SKUs? Address those on signs as well.


If your store has its own mobile app, even more opportunities open up. QR codes on product labels and shelf tags speak directly to those smartphone-in-hand shoppers. You can use them to direct shoppers not only to information-rich product pages but also to coupons and other incentives.



Incorporate self-serve kiosks to provide shoppers access to your entire product range.

Point-of-sale solutions provider iQmetrix calls this "digitally extending stores' shelf space" in its white paper with Retail TouchPoints, "Five Steps Toward Reimagining the Digital Store." One benefit ecommerce has over bricks-and-mortar is its capacity to offer far more SKUs of product than a physical shop can contain. If the size-8 shirt the shopper tried on was too small, giving her the ability to order it in a size 10 via a digital kiosk could save the sale—especially if you ship the product to her free of charge or give her another offer to compensate for her not being able to walk out with the product at that moment.


Multichannel commerce services provider MarketLive, in its ebook "How to Make the Digital Store a Reality," cites a survey in which 74% of consumers would be "likely" or "very likely" to make a digital purchase of an out-of-stock item while in the store if that item would be delivered to their home free of charge, so clearly free shipping is an effective option for salvaging the sale. Among other incentives to consider, as alternatives or additions to free shipping, MarketLive suggests double loyalty-programme points, a discount on their next purchase, or an invitation to a special in-store event.



Enable and empower store staff to better serve shoppers via digital technology.

Not every shopper wants or needs the attention of a store salesperson. Those who do, however, want the sales staff to answer their questions and resolve their problems then and there. This is where equipping staff with tablets or other mobile tech can come in handy. Even if your store has a self-serve digital kiosk, some consumers may not be comfortable using it; a store associate should be available to provide assistance and encouragement when necessary. If you don't have a kiosk, store staff should be able to check product availability of out-of-stocks in other store locations or on your website, reserve products for pickup at nearby stores, or order the items for shoppers themselves. They should also have immediate access to product information that's not readily available to shoppers wandering the aisles. In short, you want your sales staff to provide shoppers with all the information they might otherwise seek by pulling out their smartphone and searching competing websites while they're in your store.



Consider expanding your online/offline delivery options.

One major complaint consumers have regarding shopping online is the cost of delivery. One major complaint they have regarding shopping in a physical store is out-of-stock inventory. Offering multiple delivery options can help resolve those issues. Among the options MarketLive suggests:



Allow shoppers to order online and then pick up the product at their nearest store for free or for less than you'd charge to ship it directly to their home.
This is perhaps the simplest option to add, as it does not require additional stock to be held at stores.



Enable shoppers to view in-store availability online.
To make this work, you need to add a level of transparency to your website, but you don't necessarily have to increase the amount of stock held at each store.



Allow shoppers to order online and to then pick up their purchases later that day or the following day at their nearest store for free.
The benefit for consumers is greater immediacy and no delivery charge, but it requires you to have the merchandise in stock or to be able to get it to a particular store within a day.



Allow shoppers to reserve a product online, then to see it in person before committing to the purchase.
This provides the same logistical challenges as the above option, with the added risk that the consumer won't complete the purchase.


author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.


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