On an online shopping platform customers are unable to interact with products in the same way as they do offline. But, there are ways in which eCommerce stores are bringing the offline shopping journey online, to customers who are used to the brick-and-mortar experience.
Consumers often decide to test an item before completing their purchase. When they shop at a physical location they have the ability to see, touch and feel products. When the first online stores started popping up their convenience and flexibility were lauded. But, for internet shoppers, it was still virtually impossible to experience the brand beyond a product description and image.
This is just one of the shortcomings of online shopping. With the change and advancement of modern technologies, online businesses are putting in great effort to keep pace with conventional shopping habits. eCommerce sites have adopted traditional business models in an attempt to pull brick-and-mortar shoppers online. Consumers are already engaging in virtual window shopping and comparing prices online, but what other brick-and-mortar features do eCommerce sites offer to convert shoppers? PayU, an online payment gateway in South Africa, highlights some shopping aspects offline shoppers will find familiar in the digital environment.
Different angles on product views
With this tool installed, online businesses imitate the in-store experience of a customer holding a product and scrutinising it from different angles. Even though it’s still an online representation of the actual product, a customer that hovers over a product image gets a 360-degree view of it. Some integrations offer zoom functionality as well as colour switches and multiple views, enabling a more realistic product engagement.
Virtual fitting rooms
While online shopping gives consumers the convenience of never having to leave their homes, nothing beats trying on that new dress and matching it with a pair of shoes. Now, online retailers have found a way to meet that desire to experience a product before purchasing. From webcam-activated body scanners, to virtual mannequins, to augmented reality – virtual dressing rooms are revolutionising how we buy fashion online.
Credit card verification
Online safety is a major concern for consumers. When conventional shoppers swipe their credit card at a payment terminal, most consumers have some level of assurance that the transaction is protected. They may not be aware that online merchants offer the same security as physical stores. In addition to being PCI compliant (meaning they adhere to a set of regulations that aim to prevent credit card fraud), many online businesses have 3D Secure transactions activated on their websites. This is an additional verification method that allows exclusive use of a credit or bank card by the cardholder when they make purchases online.
Virtual sales assistants
Whether you find salespeople helpful or annoying – you’re bound to come across them on your online shopping journey. Conventionally, web visitors are welcomed and offered assistance by a human customer service representative via instant messaging software. But, an online retailer can also communicate with visitors via chatbots. These bots are designed to have set responses to queries that a visitor submits online, helping businesses supply the immediate gratification that customers want.
In a conventional store, in-store displays, product packaging and signage are strategically placed to influence buying. This manipulation of customer behaviour works on the principle of consumer psychology. In eCommerce, consumer behaviour is influenced by psychological triggers such as new arrivals and best sellers on the home page, cross-selling attempts (suggesting an item that complements a product) on a product page, pricing techniques, and discounted/free samples. For online stores that want to successfully attract and engage consumers in this way, strategies need to be legal, ethical and respectful.
While eCommerce still owns a relatively small share in the South African retail market, the number of online shoppers is predicted to double in the coming years as technology improves and more consumers discover the benefits of buying over the internet.