One result of the pandemic is the change in people’s shopping behaviour – namely, combining shopping online and offline (at the same time). This consumer behaviour change demands that businesses embrace hybrid retail platforms.
Hybrid retail is a combination of two things:
the accessibility of an online store
the proximity of physical neighbourhood stores
Even with the convenience that comes with online shopping, some customers still like the experience of brick-and-mortar shopping that offers:
a tangible way of selecting products
diversity of options to choose from
the chance to personally interact with the store staff
The question is: Are you ready to offer hybrid shopping experiences?
What is hybrid shopping?
Hybrid shopping is the combination of online and in-store buying to create a seamless and personalised shopping experience.
There are two ways you can shop as a customer.
The traditional way is to go to a physical store to look for products, purchase what you want and return home with your products.
The digital version is to wait for the delivery of your products after purchasing them online. Today, with the hybrid shopping journey, people can choose how they buy products by combining both in-person and online shopping.Either they order products online and come to a physical store to pick them up.Or, they can go to the physical store to see products they want to buy in person and return home to order them online.
The IBM Institute for Business Value report was released in January 2022, which you can read about here.The report revealed that hybrid shopping is on the rise.The report recommends that retailers must be more agile to meet customers where they are by integrating in-store and digital experiences.
The reasons cited why respondents still go to physical stores include:
to physically touch products
to pick and choose their products
to get products right away
About 27% of respondents say hybrid shopping is their preferred choice, and the Gen Z respondents surveyed are the ones most likely to hybrid shop compared to other age groups.
Research findings published by YouGov, state that:
Both brick-and-mortar and online platforms are pervasive with shoppers. The average penetration across markets for brick-and-mortar is 86%, while the online channels have an 81% average penetration.
74% of the shoppers globally used both offline and online channels to purchase products in the past three months leading to the survey.
Hybrid shopping activities
Other research studies analysed the activities consumers do when hybrid shopping. One of the studies suggests that as many as 63% of all buyers begin their buying journey online.
Despite this, however, research has indicated that over 82% of all retail sales occurred in brick-and-mortar shops up to and including 2020.
Retailers must also embrace the in-store pickup arrangement to better compete, as click-and-collect purchasing arrangements doubled in a one-year period from 4% to 8%.
All this data suggests that businesses must transition to the hybrid model as a way to compete and make their organisations stay relevant.
Further, they must track the buying activities of customers and adjust their strategies accordingly.
As lockdowns ease across the world, businesses will get ready to reopen their brick-and-mortar stores, but they must think of ways to increase their online options and offer in-store pickup this time around.
Advantages of hybrid shopping
Merging online and offline experiences allows customers to get the perks of in-store shopping.
With it, shoppers can:
Get an immersive experience
When customers shop in person, they can touch products with their hands and listen to music while browsing catalogues.
They can also enjoy the walks in between shelves, the ambience, and the decors in a physical store. All these contribute to an overall immersive experience.
Preview products in person
Shoppers can inspect their goods in person when they do in-store shopping. This way, they can avoid product scams, defective equipment, or incorrect sizing.
In-person shopping guarantees that customers get the right product when they need it.
Bring products home immediately
In-store shoppers need not wait too long for their products to come. They can immediately use their products.
This speedy accessibility allows customers to get hold of the product they want right after making their payment.
With one quick stop at the store, customers can:
Verbally discuss returns
Learn exciting deals
Negotiate the store’s return policy terms
But businesses can do more to improve customer satisfaction on a hybrid model.
One of the ways to do that is by using software integration.
Software integration allows you to create a unified system within your organisation. With the best software to use for your retail business, you can:
Build relevant and timely content.
Launch email marketing campaigns
Improve point-of-sale systems
Build customer loyalty programs
Manage your inventory effectively
How to set up your business for hybrid shopping
To start building your presence online, you need to create a business website first. To start this project, you can hire a website builder or use a platform that allows you to build a free online store.
Whichever way you do it, make sure to build a website that uses the best strategies to attract buyers, through which you can convert many potential customers.
Check out Square Online, a marketing service provider consisting of specialists that can help you expand your reach using seamless integrations.
They can help you with SEO and integrations with the biggest names online, such as Facebook, Google, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and more.
The service offers built-in SEO tools that will help your business be easily accessible to the audience you are targeting.
If you want your web pages to land on top of search results, you should work with such service providers. These people know well how the system works.
You also want to engage with your existing and potential customers via email marketing and social media. That is the best way to maintain customer engagement.
Segmented email lists are an essential tool to make every email campaign successful, and that is where Square Marketing is especially helpful.
The service will create target groups for you, which is very helpful in identifying your regular, lapsed, and new customers. You want a tool that can help you easily create tailored email marketing campaigns for your audience.
Also, you want to check Square’s loyalty program software specially built for retail businesses. With this software, you can increase repeat visits to your business and track data that include:
Total loyalty customers
Top loyalty customers
Number of rewards redeemed
The software’s main advantage is that it can automatically engage with customers when they earn rewards or points, which means your business is always top of mind among your clients.
The software is also particularly helpful through the point of sale. Just type the phone number of your customer to apply and send rewards.
If your business needs streamlining, Square for Retail can help you make that happen. With this tool, you can integrate sales, purchase orders, customer directory, and more and manage them all in one dashboard.
Square for Retail has many benefits, but the most unique is its payment platform. With it, you can transfer funds with a customized schedule based on your business.
In addition, it can help you to take integrated payments, get paid fast, and keep your financial data secure.
Take advantage of all these tools at your disposal to ensure your business is ready for a hybrid shopping setup.
Hybrid retail strategies
You can incorporate these tactics to ensure your hybrid shoppers are happy with your services:
Ensure customers know the availability of stock
Allow your customers to review real-time stock levels, which you can do by creating an app for it.
This strategy will eliminate the bugbear of being told an item is unavailable. Customers expect that you offer such a feature.
Expose customers to your products
Allow customers to try out your products in person without forcing them to purchase. This strategy is what you can do if your business struggle with costly return rates.
If your retail business sells clothes, you may create an app where customers can reserve clothes online and try them in-store later. Next, send them a message when they can already try the clothes they have picked.
Enhance the in-person shopping experience
In today’s market landscape, where providing value is king, being creative is a must for businesses.
Be as creative as Nike or even better. The company has equipped its NY flagship store with treadmills, a soccer area, and a basketball court to allow in-store shoppers to try out the sportswear before purchasing. Nike has also hired in-store stylists to provide fashion advice.
Conclusion – start your hybrid model plans today
Transitioning to a hybrid model has enormous potential for retailers.
In addition to creating innovative engagements and boosting sales, you can deliver a totally different experience, an experience that is:
It is an experience that customers expect and love. Get started on building your hybrid model today, and watch your business revolutionalise your customers’ experience.