Online shopping is increasingly becoming ubiquitous. Even places with limited internet penetration are not left untouched. However, it is by no means dominating offline sales, and a recent Forrester report on the latest trends in online shopping activity shows that offline sales still dominate online sales. So in spite of the recent shift of the buying activity of customers towards online shopping, the traditional way of visiting a shop to buy things, still dominates all trends.
There are reasons – the need to feel, touch, smell and then buy any commodity. “You get what you see” is just not enough.
As many of us are, I too have been apprehensive of buying things online (especially costly items like watches and jewellery). Taking example from my friends who bought online regularly and were confident with the technology, I started buying online.
But here is what happened with me…
I order a helmet online and I get one with a different design and in a smaller size.
I order a keyboard online and I get one with a defective button.
I order an office chair online and I face installation issues.
While there may be few who share such experiences as mine, here is a broader view of such issues faced widely.
The three most common problems are deliveries arriving late (19%), goods arriving faulty or damaged (13%) and goods not arriving at all (12%).
Following are some issues undeniably still prevalent:
A product ordered online may get delivered with a different color and design than what was chosen. There are differences in actual sizes of apparels with the same mentioned size but different brands. Footwear/Apparels ordered online may be larger or smaller than the actual required size.
Any product ordered online is not received instantly. One has to wait for the courier to arrive. Plus, if your house is locked because you are out on a holiday or for any other reason, you may miss the delivery if it arrives on that very day. On the other hand, customized delivery will add to the cost of the product!
Return and Exchange Issues
Exchanges, returns and refunds are possible for online shoppers, but that process is time consuming and an overhead.
All of this, and many more possibilities, reveal the fact that there is still much room for improvement in the online shopping experience provided even by reputed online stores.
While the benefits of an actual offline store are well proven, given that they enable businesses to better engage with their customers, the expectations of customers from their buying experience are growing each day. The best Omni channel experience is the talk of the day.
Even Amazon, whose name itself was the face of online-shopping, has started offline stores.
As such, would it predict a plateau in the recent surge of online shopping?
The upshot of online stores was powered by platforms which provided easy setup of an e-commerce website. Oracle Commerce Cloud, Salesforce Commerce Cloud (Demandware) and Magento are few of the popular enterprise e-commerce platforms used to setup an online store.
Being aware of the issues in pure play e-commerce, these platforms have started providing solutions for the above problems.
One such leading and powerful solution, which brings the power of online to the offline stores, is the Digital Store Solution (DSS) or Commerce Cloud Store, by Salesforce Commerce Cloud (formerly known as Demandware).
The Commerce Cloud Store/Digital Store Solution (DSS):
The DSS technology uses a handheld device, like a tablet, to connect a store with all its branches. Thus DSS remembers a customer’s preferences and provides the best assistance for a quick buy using the customer’s profile info, past purchases and buying behavior.
“Endless Aisle” for stores:
DSS fetches inventory info from all stores (supporting cross selling and upselling) to fill the gaps in inventories, and provides the products which are not currently in-store. This creates an “Endless Aisle”, where the store associates can assist the buyers to buy even from the manufacturer’s warehouses (this ought to be exciting!) from the store itself, using the DSS.
How it solves the said issues.
The physical store has the obvious benefits of better customer engagement. It provides customers with tangible products which they can touch and feel, try or smell. There is no wait time to lay hands on the product. It provides easy return/exchange opportunities.
What’s more, some customers go to physical stores because they like the atmosphere of the physical stores
A DSS equipped store, helps a business to close a sale rather than lose it due to un-available product choices by having an online format of the same store with a wider range of products.
For customers it means a one-stop-shop solution along with the best shopping experience. For businesses, it helps to increase revenue and customer retention, and gives more returning customers. Read the live example below to find a proof of this.
How DSS helped a leading shoe manufacture and retail company to better serve its customers
DSS helps stores to provide a seamless, customized and personalized shopping experience.
A U.S based leading brand of shoes, which owns and operates its own production and retail facilities is one of the first to pilot test (and fully adopt) Endless aisle.
The store associates in one of its outlets were introduced to the Endless Aisle app and were trained to use it effectively. As the test started, the walked sales for the company reduced and it even found that the main reason for walked sales was the fact that it didn’t have the right sizes available for its customers at the right time. Its customers also benefited by the speedy transactions at point of sale and free home delivery of the products (via the DSS technology).
The pilot test was such a success for this company that it expanded the DSS technology to its six more stores and later to all its 26 stores in the US.
The test provided the company the data and insight into the buying habits of its customers, which helped it to forecast better. By knowing what its customers want and where they buy it, the company modified its merchandise accordingly, store by store, and by that year’s end it rightly expected sales from in-store tablets to equal the sales of one physical store.
As the realization dawns that pure play e-commerce cannot be the future, nor can offline stores continue to survive and thrive with the increasingly demanding customer experience, a blend of online and offline, also known as Omni channel, is emerging as the need of the hour. Addressing this need, DSS is proving a win-win for businesses and customers both.