Ah, the age old tale of a startup looking to make its mark in the digital commerce space. It’s a story as old as time and has been tried countless times since the advent of the internet. Many attempt, few succeed and even more struggle with acquiring and retaining customers that actually purchase products entirely digitally.
Take for example Casper Mattresses, a mattress e-tailer that was founded in 2014 and aspired to disrupt the sleep space. Casper attained social media bliss through targeted marketing campaigns that featured celebrities with their mattresses. What a concept: take a mattress, show a celebrity unboxing it and sell said mattresses.
Social Media, Digital Not Always End Game
However, Casper overlooked two key areas within their business model that would prove challenging.
First, their product lifecycle was well, limited. How often do you buy a mattress? According to some statistics, maybe every eight years.
Second, you can’t try the mattress in a store. Casper was fully 100% digital at this point in their business history, which required consumers to "assume" the content they were reading on the Casper site was accurate and descriptive enough to inspire a purchase.
It’s these two factors that ultimately led to Casper doing the unthinkable in the digital commerce space. You guessed, moving into retail.
Wait, that can’t be right? A internet startup is abandoning the core nucleus of digital commerce to move into retail? WHAT!?
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Why Retail Is an Integral Part of Your Customer Experience
Yes, it’s true — and in fact, is the exact strategic move that saved their company. Casper struggled to keep up with the stiff competition it had in retail locations, not to mention the extremely long product lifecycle usage and cost to acquire customers. Casper ended up partnering with retail giant Target, as well as West Elm, and as of late 2020, Casper had 65 of its own retail store fronts throughout the United States.
So, what gives, right? Why did Casper move away from a channel they were so confident would yield incremental revenue and growth?
The answer is simple — as much buzz as ecommerce and digital sales get, retail will never die.
Here are three reasons why retail is an integral part of your customer experience strategy for 2023 and beyond:
1. Serenate the Senses
Sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. All five are just as important as the others in attaining visceral customer experience inside retail stores. Consumers, at the end of the day, are humans, and we humans thrive off our senses. We need to feel the mattress, touch it, see its size and how it might fit in our home.
As great as digital commerce experiences CAN be, they simply don’t get the job done in some product categories. By brands appealing to these senses in store, they can begin to generate deeper connections with customers that inspire purchases, but more importantly, confident purchases. You feel good when you purchase something in-store after it has tickled your senses.
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2. Digital Drives In-Store Visits
Now, let me be clear. This article is NOT a slam on digital experiences and commerce. In fact, if your brand has retail locations it’s important to not neglect this channel. I’d argue it’s just as important as your retail location, and here’s why.
For many consumers your digital footprint will be their first experience with your brand. They need to experience your products, your vision and your core approach to solve their problems. Digital experiences drive consumers to get in their car and visit your location where you will have the opportunity to close the sale.
This leads in perfectly to my last point.
3. Empower Employees
The most important area of this equation of retail resiliency are the employees the work your brands locations. Employees need to be in the loop on this strategy of consumers visiting your digital experiences before coming in store. They need to inspire customers to open their senses to your products. They need to be able to feel consumers desires and provide solutions to their problems. A properly trained employee who understands your customer is, quite frankly, the most invaluable way to attract consumers to convert and to come back.
Conclusion: Time and Proactive Voice of the Customer Are Your Friends
Marrying your digital commerce and in-store retail strategy might be one of the most delicate dances we as businesspeople can navigate. It requires time, proactive voice of the customer and a detailed analysis of core analytics and business data.
However, as we look forward to 2023 and beyond, I believe it’s a brands duty to cultivate the retail dream a bit further. Fully immersive retail experiences have already started to take form, and new consumer demographics are moving into this segment. With technology-supported shopping experiences, like augmented in-store realities and shopping beacons, we have only begun to scratch the surface of what retail could be.
Imagine the latest and greatest TikTok trend is a new dance inspired by a brand through an in-store experience. Gen Z’s would be lining the store to be able to create and post content inspired by your brand's message. This is the future, and this is why retail will never die.
John Wanamaker, which some (primarily myself) consider the Godfather of retail, once said, “When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king.” Put your customer above yourself and your brand, and you’ll inspire in-store experiences that will make consumers return to your brand again and again.