In today’s digital world it is vital for your business to have both an online and in-store presence to meet consumers’ needs.

We asked Dr Jason Pallant, Lecturer of Marketing and Service Innovation pillar leader of the Customer Experience and Insight (CXI) Research group at Swinburne University of Technology to share some thoughts on how local businesses can meet and exceed their customers’ expectations, and stay competitive in the face of rising online shopping, by providing a total customer experience.

Here’s what he advises:

Cater to different groups of customers

Research suggests that there are different groups of customers. Some browse online first and then buy in-store, some try products on in-store then buy online, while others will use a single channel only, for example doing everything online, or everything in-store.

It is important that you try to cater for all of these alternatives. That means providing descriptions, pictures or other tools to allow customers to experience products online if they don’t want to come in-store.

At the same time, it means making sure there is enough stock in-store that people can buy what they need if they don’t want to go online.

Consider both online and offline channels

There is no “one-size-fits-all” strategy for how best to utilise online and offline channels as each business is different, though it’s important that you understand the strengths of each channel and how you can utilise them.

Having an online presence is very useful for customers who wish to gather specific information about products and see the range available, though it struggles with allowing customers to directly experience (touch and feel) the products.

That’s why physical spaces like stores are so important, along with the ability to interact with staff members face to face and provide a service where customers feel special and walk away wanting to come back again.

Link online and in-store offerings

When customers are shopping, they think in terms of companies and brands rather than online versus offline channels.

While behind the scenes there may be different processes running an online website compared to a physical store, the customers don’t see this. So they expect that they will be linked in many ways; similar products will be available, prices will be equivalent, products bought online can be bought in store, and so on.

It’s also important for you to recognise that for many customers their first interaction with a brand or store is through the website, so the customer experience needs to start there.

In the face of competition, remember the basics

There is a lot of noise in the industry about the impacts of technology and international competitors.

Undoubtedly they have had an impact, but don’t get caught up in these trends and launch into new technologies that aren’t sustainable or without putting thought into it. Having a website where the products are always out of stock would be frustrating for customers and may damage your brand with them.

You can’t forget about the retail fundamentals. Customers still value customer service when they walk into a store. They still value unique, well designed products or services. Local small businesses have an advantage in this space, particularly against large international competitors.

Being smaller and local provides an opportunity to offer something different, as well as to personalise the experience for local customers.

Learn more about online and in-store marketing

We offer on-demand workshops in a variety of online marketing platforms, including Instagram and LinkedIn. We also offer on-demand workshops in visual merchandising to support your in-store offerings.

For more information phone 9278 4081 or email [email protected].