New e-commerce businesses continue to emerge at a breakneck pace, but they still account for only 6 percent of all retail sales. The truth is, most shoppers still prefer in-store shopping experiences, says YouEye CEO Malcolm Stewart. “In-store shopping is not just a means to an end,” he says. “It’s an experience, it’s touching fabrics, getting a fitting, browsing a hardware store.” And, he adds, it’s not convenient to shop online only to get something in the mail that doesn’t fit.
Stewart’s Mountain View, Calif., business aggregates and analyzes massive amounts of data to help big brands understand and connect with their customers. “We help people perfect the customer journey,” he says. And when clients ask YouEye to replicate their retail experience for their online customers, he says, “we do research to understand the key moments in the physical store to simulate that environment online.”
He spoke with Yahoo Small Business Advisor about the three most important in-store shopping experiences YouEye has identified for e-commerce sites to replicate.
1. Peer influence and social validation. When people shop brick and mortar with a companion or in the presence of a trusted sales person who tells you that you should buy something, “you’re more likely to buy it and be happy about your purchase, and you’re less likely to return it,” Stewart says.
How can e-commerce platforms provide a similar experience? “Implement co-browsing tools that help shoppers who are in completely different locations feel like they’re shopping together in a digital store,” he says. Take, for instance, The Net Set app (pictured above), launched this month by Net-a-Porter that lets women shop online with a crowd of friends.
2. Instant gratification. A Ripen eCommerce survey of 1,235 shoppers found that close to one-third shop in-store rather than online for instant gratifcation. “You never really get that feeling of, ‘Wow! I got this! I’m carrying it in a bag!’ from digital shopping,” Stewart says.
How can e-commerce platforms compete? “Offer next-day shipping, especially at an attractive price,” he says. “With free or cheap next-day shipping, e-tailers can help customers feel, ‘Wow, I got that, it will be here tomorrow!’”
3. In-store testing and trial. YouEye research finds that most consumers still prefer to test products in brick-and-mortar stores. If an online marketplace wants to compete, it must offer free at-home try-on programs such as what the eyeglasses e-tailer Warby Parker or the lingerie e-tailer Trueandco offer.
Stewart says another digital lingerie store he worked with allowed women to submit their height, weight, and photos to help customer service reps recommend comfortable and properly fitting garments.
He also suggests that e-tailers enable reviewers to include photos of themselves in the brand’s products the way Modcloth and Rent the Runway do. “Customers can post an image, and say, ‘Here’s me wearing the outfit I bought last month.’ Others look at that as social proof. They look good, and it’s more realistic than a model,” he says.
Another option is to do what the online-only retailer Bonobos has done. Stewart says, “They’ve created GuideShops. They don’t want to own lots of retail space, but these allow people to walk in and try things on.” Customers still wait for a delivery, but Stewart says the shops are seeing average orders that double the value of online orders.