6 Ways to Make Your Online Shop Feel Like a Physical Store
We’re all longing for normalcy, and shopping in-store is many people’s normal, especially nearing the holidays. While we can’t provide that for shoppers right now, taking your brick-and-mortar shop online can be done in an intentional way to mimic the in-store shopping experience as much as possible.
There will always be an experience gap between shopping online and shopping in-store, but it’s up to you how wide that gap is. The first step is to think about what customers love about online shopping — holding the product in their hand, getting advice from workers, the general atmosphere and experience of browsing at a physical store — and then see how you can get a similar experience online.
1. Give Customers the 360° View
We’re all used to clicking through product photos that show the front, back, and side of a product, and maybe even someone holding or modeling it. But there’s a way you can make that experience even more realistic: taking 3D photos of your products to complement the still shots. It’s not actually a video, but instead many photos played on a quick slideshow that give the effect of the product spinning all the way around. It’s an effective way to simulate the experience of looking at a sample product in the store.
2. Use Augmented Reality
Want to step up that in-person experience even more? Try using augmented reality (or virtual reality) to give customers the experience of actually trying your product. This is a particularly useful technique for fashion items, but we’re seeing AR/VR technology used for home decor, eyeglasses, even ice cream.
One of the sacrifices customers make is the inability to see the product at an accurate scale in person, and using AR/VR tech can help you bridge that gap a little bit. With accurate measurements, you can help a customer see exactly how a TV stand will look in their living room, or how glasses will look on their face.
3. Offer Personalized Shopping Consultants
There’s something to be said for the human connection that shopping in-person provides, and while we may not be able to do that in the near future because of COVID-19 concerns, we can do our best to offer a substitute. For eCommerce businesses, that’s a personal connection with sales associates to ask questions and get advice about products.
We all know about chat windows with chatbots that can answer basic questions, and customer service agents that can help with more complex queries, but you can even take it a step further than that. Consider offering personalized shopping consultants using Zoom (or another video service). Many people are getting intimately familiar with video calls due to the shift of their jobs and schooling shifting to online, and eCommerce businesses would be wise to adapt a similar strategy.
4. Keep Your Branding Cohesive
We all enjoy an iconic storefront — think Apple’s glass wall or Ikea’s clean blue and yellow theme. When designing your webpage, you have to keep both function and form in mind, and that form should seek to replicate the recognizable aesthetic of your store.
See, keeping your branding cohesive doesn’t just apply to within a website, or between your website and your social media. It also includes carrying the in-store experience and aesthetic from the physical world to the digital world. Not only should you have the same fonts and color scheme as the rest of your branding, but think about how you can incorporate elements of your storefront or interior into your website. If you have any particularly iconic elements, you could even add a parallax scrolling background feature of your store’s interior.
5. Stimulate the Senses
While keeping your brand identity cohesive offline and online, you can still get creative with your online shop to evoke a mood in your customers. The same way the music playing in-store while browsing can affect buying choices, so can color, type, and space affect a customer’s mood while visiting your website.
6. Leverage Loyalty Programs
Happy customers are loyal customers, and loyal customers keep coming back. 65% of a company’s business is likely to come from existing customers. They return because they feel like they are connected to your brand. Loyalty programs can help create and maintain those connections with your repeat buyers, and while they can’t come into your store, leisurely browse, and chit-chat with your sales reps right now, you can still connect with them in other ways. A loyalty program is an excellent way to build closer customer relationships and encourage them to keep coming back.
Centering the customer experience means meeting their needs, and what a lot of customers need right now is a pleasant shopping experience. By intentionally creating your online store in a way that provides a similar experience to shopping in-store, you’ll have happy customers that will keep coming back — and will be first in line when your brick-and-mortar location opens again.
Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.