Lessons from brick-and-mortar shops we can adapt to e-commerce

Traditional retailers might be doing poorly now, but they did get some things right and they do have something to teach
6 July 2018

E-commerce companies can learn a lot from traditional retailers. Source: Shutterstock

Living in the era of the internet, the e-commerce space continues to grow at a rapid pace. More and more consumers are choosing to carry out there shopping online due to factors such as ease, convenience, and variety.

While the e-commerce space has boomed in popularity, this is causing brick-and-mortar businesses to suffer.

Tales of a “dying retail” has populated multiple media publications, with big named companies such as Toys R Us forced to close down their stores due to bankruptcy.

In 2017 alone, the retail sector had approximately 662 bankruptcy filings, up 30 percent from the same period in the prior year.

While it cannot be argued that the offline retail space has experienced a magnitude of disruption as of late, depictions of traditional retail heading for the coffin may be a slight exaggeration.

Regardless of the how fast the e-commerce industry is growing, more than 90 percent of consumer spending is happening offline. Thus, traditional retail is still very much a primary way of buying for consumers.

While many people argue that traditional stores are lacking the innovation and technology of e-commerce companies, brick-and-mortar stores have a lot to offer the world of online sales.

Here are three lessons that e-commerce companies can learn from traditional retail stores.

1. Always greet your customer

Does your e-commerce site provide a good experience to your customers? Source: Shutterstock

While many consumers choose to shop online as a way to avoid human interaction after a long day at work, the customer experience you receive in a physical store can often make the shopping experience.

A professional shopping assistant will greet you with a friendly smile and welcome, providing you with all the help you would need regarding information about a product, recommendations, and just a general chit-chat.

This humanistic experience is what creates an amazing shopping experience and builds customer loyalty.

For many years, this element of customer experience is what was missing on e-commerce websites. But now, we’re seeing the rise in adoption of chatbots.

Through this AI-powered robot, you can automatically greet customers upon entering your site, answer frequently asked questions, and even offer personalized recommendations.

While they may not quite be the same as a human shop assistant, chatbots have been proven to have a big impact on sales.

Fashion retailer, Asos, increased orders by 300 percent using their messenger chatbot and got a 250 percent return on spend while reaching 3.5x more consumers.

2. Treat your homepage like a display window

Are you paying attention to where you place your products on your website? Source: Shutterstock

Traditional stores have entire teams dedicated to visual merchandising. Such teams spend a lot of time researching which products should be placed in different locations in the store in order to gain the most attraction.

This same attention to detail should be paid to your e-commerce website. Just how visual merchandisers change and update the display window frequently, your consumers should have a fresh and engaging experience each time they visit your site.

3. Virtual fit assistants

Virtual fitting assistants and a “try before you buy” option can help address the problem of returns. Source: Shutterstock

A major downfall of the online shopping space is the inability for consumers to accurately determine if a product will fit correctly before ordering it.

Approximately 40 percent of customers return their online purchases, mostly due to sizing issues. Not only is this an inconvenience to shoppers, but it is costing retailers billions of dollars each year.

While online retailers cannot offer the same fitting service as traditional retail stores, there is a range of technical innovations that can eliminate some of the guesswork when it comes to sizing.

Many e-commerce companies are adding “virtual fit assistants” which makes sizing predictions based on the customer’s height, weight, bust size, and other personal preferences.

The technology can also integrate with a customer’s previous purchase history and size comparisons from other retailers to determine the right fit for you.

With such a lack of consistency in sizing across retailers, this feature will do well in increasing consumer confidence when ordering a product.

As well as this feature, many e-commerce companies are beginning to offer shoppers a “try before you buy” option. This allows customers to order the product and try it on before making a payment.

In a survey by Klarna North America, a “try before you buy” option was ranked as the number one preferred payment option for buying apparel from an online retailer (37 percent). Respondents said that not having this option was a major drawback for online retail.

While the channel in which consumers are shopping may be undergoing a shift, the way people want to be treated during their shopping journey hasn’t.

It is important, therefore, that e-commerce companies still understand the need to deliver a customer experience just as amazing as in a physical store.