By James Keller, Vee24
Shoppers, now more than ever, are craving a personalized shopping experience that goes far beyond what they currently receive in store or online. It is no surprise that Accenture's 'The Rise of Me-tail' study revealed that more than half of consumers find the online retail experience "very impersonal." And, with personalization comes an additional need to be able to shop across multiple touchpoints and channels - from online to in-store, from phone to tablet to PC. As brands look to the future, they are faced with a challenge: how do they deliver a seamless customer experience across all of these channels and use different channels to enhance others?
A few brands that are getting the customer experience right are Warby Parker, Isabella Oliver and Rent the Runway. Warby Parker, an eyeglass and sunglasses manufacturer, sells online and has a limited number of showrooms in the United States. What sets them apart is they allow for the same personalized experience online as they do in their brick and mortar stores. Online shoppers can virtually "try on" glasses by uploading a photo of themselves and selecting desired frames. Based on that experience, they can request up to five pairs of frames to be sent to their homes. Consumers can then try them on, wear them for five days and choose their favorite pair.
The pair can be purchased online while the samples are sent back to the retailer (free), and the prescription is filled within a few days. The Warby Parker in-store experience is just as easy - consumers can check-out in minutes via iPads that collect everything needed to place an order.
Another shopping experience that can be equally as challenging online is shopping for maternity clothing. Many women find the experience to be intimidating and overwhelming to say the least, and require advice on finding the best clothing for their changing bodies and help understanding how sizing works. Isabella Oliver helps women make the right fashion choices throughout every stage of their pregnancies from the comfort of their own homes. Its eStylist live video assistance is a free, convenient and easy-to-use service that provides customers personalized professional help and expert advice with no obligation to buy. The eStylist prepares recommendations and wardrobe options and delivers consumers a personalized experience to address their special needs. Women can shop confidently, knowing that the choices they make are tailored to their needs.
In addition to virtual try-on and live video assistance, there are other UX and content strategies that help consumers make better online shopping decisions. Rent the Runway, a designer dress and accessory rental site, is known for their amazing customer service, fast shipping times and easy-to-use website. But, what really sets them apart is their in-depth consumer reviews. Not only do other shoppers rate the dresses they rent, but they also share photos with their own measurements, so other women feel confident in the styles and sizes they select.
More than 40,000 customer photos can be found in the "Our Runway" section of their site. This feature is critical for the success of their business as it helps minimize customer returns and complaints and improves overall loyalty. Speaking of returns, all dresses are delivered with a prepaid return envelope so women can easily wear and ship back - hassle free.
These strides in personalization that bridge the gap across all channels are what we can expect to see more of over the next 10 years. Ensuring consumers are comfortable and confident wherever they make purchases is critical for brands as they bridge their online and offline experiences. The comfort of brick and mortar stores can easily be replicated online with the right tools and tactics. And, brick and mortar will continue to become more like online via their use of analytics and in-store digital tools that enhance the customer experience. Once these types of strategies are in place, customer satisfaction will improve along with the retailer's bottom line.
James Keller is the CEO at Vee24, the world's leader in video engagement solutions for eBusiness. Prior to Vee24, Keller was the CMO of Shoebuy.com.