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Meshing the online and offline buying experience for your customers.

It’s easy to think of your e-commerce store as a separate entity from your brick-and-mortar space, but that disjointed philosophy can be detrimental to your business. Customers expect the same level of service regardless of how they interact with your business. Approaching each “store” individually may limit your full potential, so how can you make sure your offline and online worlds are complementing each other and working together as a cohesive unit?

1. Know what your target audience wants.

Even though Millennials and Gen Z have grown up with the internet, neither group is looking to buy online 100% of the time. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, Gen Z shops in-store three times more often than online. Still, they want technology that adds value to their experience, such as choices in how they make purchases and their desired payment methods. By investing in technology to assist with both online and in-person transactions, you make it easy for consumers to buy from you using their preferences.

2. Collect email addresses for your in-person customers.

Many stores now offer to send email receipts to customers rather than printing them. By doing this, they not only save paper, they open up a new communication method with their customers. Email marketing is an incredibly popular way to promote your business by offering discounts, promotions and other updates via email, keeping your business top of mind. Additionally, you can use these email addresses to create customer lists to target through social media to further tie your online presence to your in-person location. Some point-of-sale systems, such as Clover, are able to help you create customer loyalty programs to help keep your customers coming back.

3. Use social media to blend both stores.

Make sure you have a marketing plan in place, which should include social media. Content on your social media pages should drive traffic to both your brick-and-mortar location and your website. Topics should include information on your products and services, promotions, updates and other interesting topics that your customers may find useful such as bios or company history. As mentioned previously, you can target your messaging so that only specific audiences receive certain posts, which is especially helpful if you have multiple locations.

Again, you want to make sure that your social media pages represent your entire business. While driving people to your website is a great practice, don’t forget to make posts that invite them to your location to experience your brand first-hand, using methods such as contests, free samples or flash sales done in-store.

4. Buy online, pick up in store.

Another great way to integrate the online and offline experience is by allowing customers to make purchases online to pick up items at your brick-and-mortar location at either a scheduled time or at the customer’s convenience. This is the truest example of integration because it meshes the online and offline experience in a single transaction. Another good idea, if you’re in retail, is to accept in-store returns for purchases made online. Not only will this create more foot traffic, it increases the chances of turning a return into an exchange or better yet, an upsell, saving revenue that may have been lost or building upon the original sale.

5. Make sure your staff is familiar with both environments.

When working with customers in-person, your staff should be able to reference your website and direct customers to it when necessary or guide them through their online experience. Treat your website as a tool to strengthen the in-store customer experience (and vice versa).

Consumers expect seamless options that make it easy to buy what they want, when they want, how they want. With just a few modifications to your online business, ranging from technological tweaks and personalized content, to in-store enhancements such as an improved layout or easy checkout options, you will help blur the line between online and offline and give your customers the experience they are seeking

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