How Retailers Are Bringing E-Commerce Experiences to In-Store Shoppers

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After two years of incredible growth in e-commerce, the pendulum is swinging, and in-person retail is experiencing a resurgence. 

Retail sales at physical stores have rebounded more quickly than expected, exceeding pre-pandemic levels two years earlier than analysts predicted, according to eMarketer. The gap between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar is shrinking, with in-store sales rebounding by more than 8% just last year.  

Retailers today must strike a delicate balance as they work to strengthen their positions in both the online and offline worlds. Finding ways to combine the convenience of e-commerce with the level of personal service that customers expect at brick-and-mortar stores is top-of-mind for multi-location retailers in 2022.

“Despite retailers doubling down on e-commerce after the pandemic began, brands today realize that a one-sided approach isn’t enough to sell inventory and fully meet their customers’ needs,” says Jennifer Shambroom, chief marketing officer at Clickatell, a chat commerce company. 

Shambroom says physical store locations are still a critical component of the modern customer experience for brands. More people returned to in-person shopping in 2021 than in 2020, and U.S. consumers spent 11% more time and money in brick-and-mortar stores last year. 

Physical stores are still a valuable part of a retailer’s strategy, and data shows that customers today are looking for physical experiences as well as goods. 

“People missed out on in-person shopping, eating, traveling, entertainment, and more during the pandemic era, and brands now need to recognize how important it is to connect via mobile, digital, and physical commerce to achieve customer satisfaction,” Shambroom says. “Because consumers expect a seamless purchasing experience anywhere they shop, we see more retailers establishing digital touchpoints at physical stores or creating showroom retail stores that bring the experience to life.”

Nearly 80% of consumers say speed and convenience are two of the most important elements of a positive customer experience, according to PwC. Unfortunately, Shambroom says many brands are struggling to capitalize on the current opportunity to connect brick-and-mortars to digital experiences. For example, while mobile penetration increased in the U.S. to over 80% in 2022, and mobile commerce is expected to claim about two-thirds of worldwide e-commerce spending by next year, retailers are still behind in connecting customers to their brands via mobile channels. 

“U.S. consumers are consistently on their phones and interested in new ways to engage with their favorite brands, whether it’s in-store or at home,” Shambroom says. “For retailers with brick-and-mortar locations, utilizing chat channels to bring the commerce experience to people in-store, such as offering deals, allowing for returns or reviews, suggesting purchases and enabling mobile checkout, can be a way to make in-store shopping more enjoyable and a breeze for customers.”

Opportunities in Mobile Chat

Retailers in 2022 have an opportunity to get ahead of the competition by integrating mobile messaging solutions for marketing, operations, customer service, and sales. Shambroom also believes there are opportunities for brick-and-mortar retailers to enhance their existing curbside pickup programs with mobile messaging in chat channels and digital experiences that offer self-service, contact-free payments, purchase updates, savings add-ons, and directions to the closest store within users’ proximity.

According to a survey by Clickkatell, 71% of millennial shoppers in the U.S. use chat every day, and eight-in-10 consumers say speed and convenience are among the most important elements of a positive customer experience. Shambroom says it’s clear that this needs to occur over mobile chat as well, and failing to offer that convenience is a missed opportunity for brands.

“With the increasing effects of inflation, customers are committed to supporting brands that enable them to save money while delivering an efficient experience, including payments —meaning these retailers need to prioritize accordingly with omnichannel capabilities across web, mobile, and in-store,” Shambroom says. “With 38% of consumers recently making payments over mobile chat, it signals a growing trend to bring the checkout experience to chat channels.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.