A Sure Way To Kill Your Retail Business – And How To Avoid It
A website is not an in-store tool. It serves a critical purpose, especially in the Post-COVID retail world. Still, too often retailers use websites as in-store tools – for example to display an “endless aisle”. If you are thinking about putting your website on an in-store kiosk – think again. It’s actually a lot worse than not having a kiosk at all. Here’s why.
A while back, my wife and I went to a party supplies store. We were looking for decor items for a kids birthday party. As we were walking through the aisles in a somewhat deserted store, we realized that their assortment was about as limited as the associate’s motivation to help us out.
Disappointed and almost ready to leave the store, we overheard an announcement instructing us to check out their kiosk if we couldn’t find what we were looking for. I was really excited as this sounded exactly like the retention concept an endless aisle can be. Before disappointed shoppers leave your store, introduce them to your ‘endless aisle’. My excitement was short-lived. The “kiosk” was an outdated PC with a gnarly keyboard, a mouse, and a bulky monitor on some sort of stand that reminded me of hospital equipment. I let my wife engage with the “kiosk” as she had a clearer picture in her head of what we needed for the party.
The In-Store Kiosk Experience And Its Consequence
After a few clicks and laggy loading screens my wife turned around and said “I think this is just their website”. And surely it was. “I’ll just do this from home later”, she concluded, and we left. On the way home, we treated ourselves to Panera just to make sure the trip wasn’t a complete waste of our time. There’s nothing worse than someone that doesn’t respect our time. And if that someone is a company, they will never see us again.
Later that night, my wife ordered all the decor we needed. Online, in bed, from her phone. The package from Amazon arrived a few days later, just in time for the party.
That store didn’t just lose a transaction that day. They lost a customer – for good. Putting a website on a touchscreen or – even worse – on a regular computer in your retail store is counterproductive. It’s downright damaging to your business. 83% of shoppers visit a store’s website before visiting the physical location. To then show them something they’ve already extensively browsed before coming in is a slap in the face. Customer experience is everything – and having to browse a retailer’s website in their store is a very bad one. Why would any consumer go to the store in the first place if the website provides the better experience? I wouldn’t. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
Instead, I will go to the website to start a journey well beyond the retailer’s control. It’s a journey that invites me to cross-shop, compare value, and to finally buy the same exact product much cheaper from a competitor. Maybe a drop-shipper, without the expense of brick & mortar locations and store employees. And all this happens on my own terms, on my preferred device, from the comfort of my home.
Customer Experience Allows Retailers To Differentiate From Competitors
Retail is extremely competitive, and customer experience is one of the few tools left to really set your store apart from the rest. For that you will need to provide something people can NOT have at home. For example, a native application that integrates with local and manufacturer inventory for a real-time view of what’s available. Surround the with high-margin items, strategically placed merchandise that inspires your customers. Think about store-within-store ideas or collaborations with other retailers. These are simple steps that truly set you apart.
If the expense of a custom-built in-store app is outside of your budgetary possibilities and you absolutely have to use a web-based solution, at least make sure you are using code that was specifically built for touch-screens. Small buttons, dropdown menus, drag & drop, etc. are wonderful when used with a mouse but they just don’t work with fingers. Ideally, use a content distribution system that supports local caching of all content for a blazingly fast experience.
Also, please don’t replace sales associates with technology. The “silent salesperson” is a myth, and self-service in a brick & mortar store serves a different purpose than replacing the sales consultation. Instead, provide your employees with smart tools that help them engage, consult, and create the great customer experiences that trigger excellent reviews. Soon, more and more people will come in to enjoy that great experience.