For more than a decade, retail has been fighting with ecommerce for market share. Using what they have to offer, they’ve been engaging consumers through digital and social media to drive traffic to stores and providing personalized experiences to engender loyalty. But there’s no way around it. Ecommerce cost structures and platforms are more nimble:
“Window Displays” can be changed daily.
“Staff training” becomes a database update
Recommendations can be made based on past purchases, instead of in-person profiling & best guesses.
That said, according to this eMarketer article, retail sales from ecommerce are still only a fraction of total retail sales – and while they’re growing, they won’t even hit the 10% mark by 2018. And Statista tells us that online orderers buying on mobile devices spend 16.4% less on average than their offline counterparts.
Why is retail still winning? There are many reasons, including the following:
Ability to see, touch and try merchandise
The instant gratification of getting the product immediately
Certainty of fit and suitability
Ease of returns
The in-store shopping experience itself
So what’s an etailer to do, other than invest in retail stores? Clearly this isn’t a model that’s suitable for everyone. So to fight back, etailers must engage creatively where they can:
In a world where customers still value face-to-face interaction, E-commerce must relay entirely on a person-free shopping experience. But there are workarounds. For example, etailers could use quality video conferencing for customer engagement. By providing live video interactions with customer service reps, they’ll not only offer more engagement; they can also improve the shopping experience and drive the consumer to the optimal answer. At the same time, they can address concerns and questions far more personally than they’ve been doing it via live chat.
With video conferencing as an option, etailers can offer any consumer the option of an expert, trained consultant on sizing and material. This will speed up the decision-making process of online purchasing, raise customer confidence in purchase decisions, and potentially raise average ticket price because of intervention, assistance, and additional suggestions.
Ease of Use
While we’re all used to interacting with websites, text, databases and other digital forms at work, this is not the case in shopping. By adding human contact and interaction to shopping, consumers feel far more comfortable. They can ask questions; feel better about returns or trouble shooting, and more. They can even physically show an etailer if something has been delivered that is defective or not as advertised, leading to more comfort with every sale.
Video Conferencing – a Game Changer in Etail
Brick and Mortar shopping isn’t going away. But there is no doubt that ecommerce companies can and are becoming more competitive against their traditional retail counterparts. By injecting a human element into the shopping and purchase process via video communication, etailers have the potential to become much bigger players. Simply put, they can offer the best of both worlds – a personal, interactive experience that is also nimble, scalable and efficient.
This blog is part of a series of 25 blogs that take a look at how Polycom has transformed industries and business functions. These blogs are a variety of retrospective, current and visionary perspectives with the common thread of unleashing the power of human collaboration. Follow the hashtag #Polycom25 on Twitter for tweets about this significant anniversary in our history.