A few weeks ago I found myself in the middle of Times Square. I was craving a protein shake so I opened Google Maps and found the nearest retailer where I could buy one. Luckily, there was one a few blocks away.
After going through their options, I took my chocolate shake to the counter. The clerk smiled at me friendly and said, "Do you have an account with us?"
Little did I know how complicated this question would become. I did not have one so I tried to open one with the clerk. I found myself spelling out my name, email, communication preferences and my astrological sign to the clerk.
For some reason, the account creation process wasn't working. Something to do with my email not being valid. I was still holding my protein shake, dreaming that I could one day drink it.
In my hunger-driven mental state, I realized that perhaps I could create the account online and then the clerk would see it. I opened up my phone and repeated the same process. I provided all of my details — again — validated my email, signed over my life in the terms of service and so forth.
I'm still standing at the till, dying to give my money over.
After a few minutes, the clerk finally sees my account and is able to ring me through. Three dollars and 15 minutes later, I walked out and drank my shake.
Many retailers are trying to make the so-called "offline-online" connection work. Most consumers, like myself, don't actually care about it. We just want to purchase products with minimal friction.
Here are three decisions that all retailers must make moving forward.
How Easy Is Purchasing?
The retailer in my story had a convoluted purchasing process. Maybe it's by design or it was just experiencing a bug when I visited. Either way, retailers need to make deliberate decisions on the purchasing process.
For some, it has to be extremely easy. Small purchases — like my shake — don't require emotional involvement. Consumers don't shop at Walmart because of a high love for the brand. They want low prices.
Other retailers want to cultivate a specific branding experience. You can't just walk into Costco and shop. In fact, there’s always a bouncer checking to see if you have the card. Their customers love it.
Purchasing should be as simple as needed, no more or less.
Related Article: How to Deliver a Customer-Centric Digital Customer Experience
Customers Don't Think in Offline-Online
I don't know who came up with offline-online, but the term needs to be retired. People just want to purchase products and then figure out the best way to get them.
Best Buy is a great example of a retailer that blurs the line between these two worlds. You can buy a product online and pick it up in-person or get it shipped to you. You can also buy in-person and get it shipped to your house or another store.
Retailers might think offline vs online but customers move seamlessly between the worlds. Customers expect that their accounts will work anywhere, and they can see all of their activity in one place.
If I create an account in-person, I can just purchase online and vice-versa. By designating different worlds, you establish different rules when in reality, they all belong to the same customer experience.
Related Article: 1 Trip to the Mall, 2 Hybrid Customer Experiences
Always Provide Options
When I shop for pet products, I typically visit PetSmart who has done a fantastic job at giving options. I can get food for my golden retriever delivered to my door or delivered to a store nearby. I can also just walk into a store and buy it.
I don't feel friction switching between "worlds." I just use my phone number or email to connect my activity to a single profile. Options are what defines a modern retailer, not a fancy "offline-online" strategy.
It's Not Complex
The point I'm making is that designing a great customer experience shouldn't be complex. Don't put artificial barriers if they aren't needed. Make it easy for them to buy, even if they don't give their email address.
Options is what defines a modern retailer, and ideally, you're not making customers wait in front of a till because they need to fit into your "perfect" customer experience.
Sometimes, customers just want to give you money. Are you making it easy for them?
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