The classic repeat customer is extinct. No virus is to blame for it, though, just the wide-ranging possibilities of the World Wide Web. Consumers hop from one channel to another. They compare prices on the Internet, receive discount codes on their smartphones, get information on YouTube, follow blogs, are on Instagram, gather inspiration on Pinterest and may even buy at the PoS, in store on site. It doesn’t just apply to shopping either; online and offline have been fusing into a rather natural coexistence in daily life too. The boundaries are blurred but the magic moment, when the customer makes up their mind to buy, is not something that the retailer can afford to miss out on.
Every shop owner who knows the wishes of their customers is able to fulfil them. This might sound simple at first but, on closer inspection, it is actually complex and time intensive. In order to achieve customer loyalty and good sales, merely being present on the web is no longer enough, nor has it been for a long time. The reason? Static websites with outdated information do not attract customers. Having an image of a winter landscape as your landing page – or even still advertising Christmas items – in March will make you come across as boring and unprofessional. This should be obvious but it is something that unfortunately, in operational business, often gets forgotten.
Whoever wants to get to know their customers has to not only have their "on-site" sales pitch ready, they also need to use social media platforms. This is where retailers can gain valuable information about target groups and how the products on offer as well as their own shop are being perceived. As a brick-and-mortar retailer, it is less about being obsessively active on every single platform or making use of the widest range of online platforms and more about having an up-to-date, authentic and individual presence on the channels of your choice.
Whether online or offline, the visual communication has to be right! Every website needs good user navigation, a suitable typeface, a coherent design and, above all, photos with appeal. In addition, the visual statements made by both the online presence and the brick-and-mortar store need to be coordinated. Images used on Pinterest and Instagram score points with emotional elements and attention to detail. At the heart of the salesroom is the visual story of the products in the shop window and at the PoS. If the attention to detail is also palpable here, then things come full circle. Creative staging in the store can be used to create appealing photos for the website and social networks.
Whoever needs inspiration and ideas should take their search online, preferably a little randomly in all sectors. With search terms like "most beautiful websites" or "successful bloggers", you will come across many examples. Online shops such as Westwing, Pappsalon and Gustavia are what I consider to be good examples of coherent communication with customers. Those seeking inspiration for photo motifs are guaranteed to strike gold on Pinterest.
It is not always about the really big solutions but instead about smart and flexible customer contact. A retailer who is not allowed to open their shop during lockdown will, first of all, ensure that they can be contacted easily by email and telephone. Preferably, this availability should not be tied to the usual opening hours but, instead, adjusted to customer needs. Laptops and smartphones make it plain sailing to show products to customers in real time via video call and to act as a personal shopper in carrying out the transaction. The simplest option for making people aware of this service is to put a notice up on the shop door and in the window, as well as in the social networks. Those lacking their own webshop can sell their products through platforms like Ebay and Amazon.
Whether it is online or in the physical store, every retailer has to carefully consider not only what their business stands for but also what added value the customer gets from shopping with them. The first rule of a successful sales experience? Always knowing how to recognise the individual needs of the customer!
About the author
Sabine Gauditz is an expert in visual marketing in the retail sector. Since 1986, she has been designing and arranging sales-promoting product presentations for various industries and redesigning the ambience of retail spaces. Together with Hans Schmidt, she founded the visual marketing consultancy, Arte Perfectum, in 2002. Since then, she has been holding seminars and workshops and offering in-house consultancy services.