When discussing technology and its effects on human relations, we often refer to a phenomenon wherein mobile devices and computers are replacing face-to-face interaction. However, in the retail space, we can leverage these tools to better route potential customers to brick-and-mortar locations and improve the buying experience through human-to-human service. Contrary to popular belief, technology can actually empower retailers to promote positive, personalized purchasing interactions—potentially turning one-time customers into repeat shoppers.
"Leveraging technology to make human connections in the retail space, it comes down to allowing consumers to shop how they want to shop"
Retailers with a wide range of needs-based, niche product offerings, such as Batteries Plus Bulbs, often receive a variety of unique customer inquiries about finding the products that will best suit their needs. Unable to develop an algorithm that can properly assess each individual request, specialty retailers must rely on the knowledge of their staff to guide consumers through the buying process. Knowing the importance of making in-store connections with potential customers, there are a few ways we’ve leveraged technology to drive these exchanges.
Building a Robust Online Platform That Works for You and Your Customers
As consumers increasingly turn to desktop and mobile devices for their purchases, building a platform that seamlessly transitions online to in-store can be a challenge. In terms of mobile, retailers must take into consideration Google’s April decision to give higher relevance to websites with mobile-friendly platforms, making it an absolute necessity for every retailer to have an effective mobile strategy.
While it would be ideal to offer a unique experience for every screen size, this is resource intensive and requires extensive engineering and upkeep to be an effective long-term strategy. However, building a mobile responsive platform gives retailers the flexibility to create a single website that adapts to every screen size. Yet, to truly leverage the flexibility of a mobile responsive platform, retailers must pay close attention to content and ensure it is viable for various screen sizes.
Attempting to fit a desktop’s worth of information on a four-inch mobile screen takes extensive planning, and developers must be very specific about the information they choose to display on smaller screens. If you’re hiding too many things on a mobile screen, information can become convoluted and page load speeds can be poor, leading to frustrated customers. Yet if pages are constructed with insufficient or irrelevant material based on what the customer is searching for, customers won’t have what they need to meet their shopping goals. So, what content and tools should be considered to best help customers find what they’re looking for and eventually make a purchasing decision on both mobile and desktop screens?
• Architecture that drives customers further into the site-
As a customer, it can be frustrating to click on a product and have a new webpage open in the mobile or desktop browser. Site navigation that keeps a customer within the website is far more effective and will save customers time and frustration of trying to steer through separate pages.
• Geolocation features-
Mobile traffic is how roughly 50 percent of our customer base makes initial contact with us. As such, developing a way for them to know the closest stores to them is crucial. Geolocation features point customers to the stores that are nearby and gives them the information they need, including maps and driving directions, to locate us in the quickest manner possible.
• Improve search capabilities-
Utilizing options such as Google Search Appliances can help customers easily find the products and services they’re looking for. With Batteries Plus Bulbs, we installed Google Search Appliances and then input our product and service data, which creates a powerful internal search mechanism. This method allows retailers to have greater control over searches and also allows them to improve the algorithm to make it work better for their customers.
• Store contact information-
Click-to-call is a big traffic builder for Batteries Plus Bulbs’ mobile platform and a crucial component for consumers to make a human connection. Prominently displaying our contact information allows them to get exactly what they need, when they need it, without the hassle of sending emails through “Contact Us” forums.
Providing Diverse Procurement Options
For needs-based retailers like Batteries Plus Bulbs, immediacy is a key component to cater to our customers’ requests. Using technology, retailers can better streamline checkout processes by providing a diverse array of purchasing options to help consumers receive products as quickly as possible. These include:
• Buy online, pick up in store-
Perhaps one of the best ways to leverage technology to create a human-to-human connection is through a buy online, pick up in-store buying option. This offering provides customers the ability to do the majority of their shopping from the convenience of home, but receive a purchased product the same day, which caters to their need for both convenience and immediacy. With an ever-increasing number of consumers choosing to buy items via this method, this is a trend retailers simply cannot ignore.
• Instant inventory checks-
Providing customers with the ability to scan store inventory for availability of products is an excellent way to save them time and money. Additionally, giving customers the nearest location at which they can purchase these items is another way to meet their desire for immediate satisfaction.
• Various delivery options-
According to a poll by King Retail Solutions conducted in December of 2014, 8 in 10 consumers said they favored buy online, pick up in-store buying options. Moving through 2015, Batteries Plus Bulbs has seen this trend become a reality in our business, as a majority of our customers who order online are choosing to pick up their products at a local store. Seeing the continued interest in this procurement method, it’s safe to say this will endure as a preferred delivery practice. However, when customers are unable to make it to a physical store location, it’s imperative retailers provide them with a wide variety of shipping options as another method to cater to customers’ schedules and buying habits.
Ultimately, when leveraging technology to make human connections in the retail space, it comes down to allowing consumers to shop how they want to shop. As a retailer, don’t presuppose for them what the right order of operations is— some will go online first, others will call first and others will go in store first. Keep in mind that technology is a powerful medium for retailers to expand their human interactions as opposed to reduce them, so be sure you’re using it to its full potential.