Did you know that hybrid shopping is one of the significant trends listed in a new IBM trend analysisi? According to their report, customers will expect their shopping and purchase experiences to flow naturally between digital and physical locations.
In this article, we will explore how retailers are adapting to the growing demands of the consumer and how they are adopting hybrid shopping to enhance the customer experience.
Table of Contents:
What is hybrid shopping?
Hybrid shopping is a retail trend where customers use a combination of online and offline channels as a more convenient and popular way to complete their purchases. This can include browsing products online, researching prices in-store, or picking up online orders in person.
To illustrate this concept, consider a real-life scenario where an individual informs their friend about purchasing a shirt from H&M. The friend found attractive discounts on the H&M app but opted to buy the shirt in-store instead. By doing so, the friend benefited from significantly lower prices, aligning with H&M's strategy to encourage more foot traffic in their physical stores. While some people may prefer the ease of shopping online, others are willing to make the effort to visit the store to save money. This combination of utilizing both online and offline avenues for shopping exemplifies the essence of hybrid shopping.
Another instance of hybrid shopping is when a customer uses a mobile app to order meals and subsequently collects them in person through the Buy Online Pick-up In-Store (BOPIS) method.
Challenges in hybrid shopping
However, the biggest challenge here is for the retailers who must provide a consistent retail customer experience offline and online.
To handle this, physical and digital elements are combined to create hybrid retail customer experiences, commonly called "phygital experiences."
How can you provide a hybrid retail customer experience using technology?
It's not just customers who are evolving and challenging businesses with their changing behaviors. Retailers are also stepping up their game while anticipating the trends of customers. We've come to an age where retailers can provide an enhanced customer experience using retail technology, thereby gaining a competitive advantage over others.
A short story of a hybrid retail customer and their customer journey:
Say I am a loyal customer of Zylker Fashion and want to buy a leather jacket from them. Every day, I use the mobile app to look for offers. Recently, Zylker Fashion began its end-of-season sale with savings of up to 70%. On my mobile app, I saw a push notification (we can do it using Zoho SalesIQ) about this offer, so I started the purchase process. I want to get the leather jacket right now after seeing that it is discounted by 65%. But regrettably, my size is out of stock.
I'm frustrated and want to know when they will restock it. I also want to buy it before this offer ends. I check the availability using the chat feature (set up using Zoho SalesIQ).
Using technological tools like our own Zoho SalesIQ for your retail business is like having a kiosk (think of a McDonald's AI drive-thru) that works seamlessly across all channels.
The chatbot (Zoho SalesIQ's chatbot is called Zobot) provides me with a prompt response that encourages me to wait patiently for further information. I happily agree when the chatbot asks to check in-store availability. Zobot confirmed its availability and assisted in pre-ordering it for me. I was thrilled and immediately provided feedback. Then I received an email about the product's availability for my size in the nearby store. I eagerly visited the store to collect my jacket. The sales rep verified my identity with OTP, and I get to pick up my jacket from the store.
Zoho SalesIQ can control the entire workflow for a customer, allowing retailers to effortlessly provide a personalized customer experience. Imagine the same journey for a million users.
Benefits of using Zoho SalesIQ to improve the hybrid retail customer experience
With several channels in place, consumer touch points with a business have gotten more complex. For example, a consumer can contact a business via Facebook Messenger, live chat, Instagram DM, Tweet, Email, and more.
Omnichannel communication makes it simple for retailers to manage consumer interaction. More importantly, an omnichannel approach allows consumers to communicate smoothly without having to repeat the conversation every time, which saves time and is inconvenient for both customers and retailers.
Present all the time
Chatbots are accessible 24x7. Customers can contact merchants at any time from any place to get answers to their questions. Without waiting for an agent to answer or being constrained by "working hours," chatbots for the retail sector allow for a continuous conversational flow throughout the client experience.
Improves in-store experience
Customers can employ kiosks in retail store outlets to make payments or use self-service options. Employees can also use the kiosk to find out information swiftly, such as how many pairs of shoes are available in a size. Having a chatbot in store outlets will significantly increase employee productivity and enhance the consumer experience.
The retail environment has changed, complicating both the online and in-store experiences. In particular, store operations must continue the digital experience provided by instant availability and easily accessible product information, keep track of special offers, and manage merchandising for their consumers. Conversational AI chatbots can be used efficiently for these tasks, freeing time for your shop operators to concentrate on more arduous duties.
Consumers can find products that suit their liking by using recommendation algorithms built into chatbots, which can help retailers boost sales.
Locate nearby stores
When shopping online, a customer might want to view or try on a product in person. Via the chatbot, the user can search local retailers, inquire about a product's availability, and learn about store hours.
Pre-book or place orders
Customers can use the chatbot to select the item they want to buy, provide their contact and address information, and place their order.
The chatbot can also let customers pre-order new items before they go on sale and deliver information about forthcoming goods that are pertinent to their preferences.
After placing an order via the chatbot, the consumer can inquire about the parcel's location, the day and time of delivery, and details about the postal service, such as the contact information for their local branch.
The consumer can use a chatbot to obtain information about the product, such as the return policy of items, offers, and FAQs, rather than chatting with a human.
Back up live agents
The company's database, which contains all the information about its goods and services, locations, and features, is connected to chatbots. If clients would rather deal with real representatives, the agent may use the chatbot to find answers quickly and avoid giving them erroneous information.
If the consumer wants to get in touch with a customer service representative to get extended support from an agent instead of chatbot, chat routing comes in handy. Chat routing helps the consumer by providing instant support without further ado. Additionally, by fairly spreading the burden among the available operators, it also contributes to improving a customer support team's effectiveness.
Gone are the days when consumers had to call a particular customer service number to talk to the reps. Not to mention the pain of waiting in a call queue while dialing numbers as instructed!
Using the click-to-call feature, consumers can effortlessly talk to reps with just a click.
Retailers can employ chat triggers to do things like boost conversions. Many times, consumers add items to carts but later abandon them for various reasons. Setting up a chat trigger for these circumstances enables retailers to personalize the customer experience.
During an interaction, chatbots often ask people for their contact information. Retailers can leverage consumer information to alert users about new items, seasonal sales, news, and events.
Send messages and alerts to customers based on their information, demographics, preferences, searches, and prior orders.
Maximize loyalty points
Chatbots can ping consumers who shop at stores that provide loyalty points to guide them toward deals or purchases where they can redeem their points or inform them of issues with their credit.
Gather consumer feedback
A chatbot can ask the customer questions, such as rating the product, the service, the packaging, etc., to analyze consumer behavioral patterns and improve the shopping experience.
You can also read this blog on Customer Engagement: Online vs Offline to gain an idea of what strategies companies are adopting to provide a more cohesive experience for their customers.
(i) IBM, "5 Trends for 2023," https://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/institute-business-value/report/business-trends-2023
Here are a few frequently asked questions:
1. What is a hybrid shopping experience?
A hybrid shopping experience refers to a retail approach that combines both online and offline elements to create an integrated shopping experience for customers. In a hybrid shopping experience, consumers have the flexibility to interact with a brand or retailer through multiple channels, including physical stores, online platforms, mobile apps, social media, and more. The goal is to provide customers with a holistic and personalized shopping experience that meets their preferences and needs.
2. Benefits of hybrid experiences:
- Easy shopping choices: You can pick how you want to shop - either from home using your devices (Laptop/mobile) or by going to a real store.
- Stuff just for you: Stores can learn from what you like and suggest things you'll love because they know what you usually do.
- Switch smoothly: You can go from shopping online to going to the store without any trouble. It's like one big shopping adventure!
- Works for everyone: Whether you like talking to people face-to-face or you prefer clicking around online, hybrid shopping has something for everyone.
- Same cool store everywhere: No matter where you shop - online or in person - the store looks and feels the same. It's like they know you well!
Hybrid shopping is highly beneficial for both stores and shoppers. For stores, it can:
- Get more people buying things: Stores can sell to lots of different people.
- Make shoppers happy: People like shopping when it's easy and just what they want.
- Save money: Stores can make things work better, so it's not too expensive.
And for shoppers, hybrid shopping can:
- Save time: You don't have to go to the store if you don't want to.
- Enjoy both ways: You can shop online like a pro and still touch things in the store.
- Find special stuff: Sometimes, you'll find things online that you can't find in stores.
3. Examples of hybrid shopping:
- Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS): Customers order products online but collect them from a nearby physical store, blending the convenience of online shopping with immediate access to the products.
- Augmented Reality (AR) Try-Ons: Customers can virtually try on products, such as clothing or makeup, through their smartphones or computer screens before making a purchase.
- Showrooming: Shoppers visit a physical store to see and touch products before making a purchase online, combining the advantages of in-store experiences with the convenience of online shopping.