You may be tired of the debate over brick-and-mortar vs. online retail—and rightfully so. As new technologies continue to change the way people shop, many have anticipated the death of brick-and-mortar stores at the hands of e-commerce. But as our shopping habits change over time, wireless retail remains somewhat of an outlier: the in-store experience has stayed crucial to the industry, as customer education is essential to completing a sale. At the same time, the potential for selling plans and products online has changed retailers' tactics and marketing efforts. It's no wonder why so many wireless retailers are wondering which sales channels to focus their efforts on.
- Customer Service – There is no replacement for interacting face-to-face with an associate who has expert knowledge of products and services. In person, customers have easy access to all the resources they need to make informed purchases. It's much harder to have a conversation with customers online that helps them feel heard and taken care of.
- Brand Experience – The true character of a brand really comes through during the in-store experience. Everything from the color of the walls, to the technology on display, and the attitude of the staff communicates what a wireless retailer stands for. Websites communicate similar messages, but not necessarily with the same impact.
- Upselling – It is much easier to motivate a customer to make larger purchases when staff can communicate the benefits and demonstrate the potential of accessories and add-ons in person. This opportunity exists online, but the level of consumer enthusiasm is not quite on par.
- Scale – Physical stores are limited by their square footage, their inventory, and dozens of other factors. And when one of those factors falls short of customer expectations, it reflects poorly on the entire brand. The basically limitless capacity of online sales channels gives consumers easy access to whatever they need.
- Cost – Brick-and-mortar stores are expensive to operate and hard to budget for. As the balance between in-person and online retail continues to shift, the operating costs may outweigh the opportunity costs.
- Convenience – Customers can shop from anywhere at anytime, and hit the purchase button whenever they feel compelled to. The in-store experience is much more structured and limited by comparison.
- Flexibility – Purchasing a new phone or plan is a big decision. Online purchasing lets consumers consider a purchase for as long as they need without feeling pressure. Shopping in person creates an "all-or-nothing" situation while shopping online allows customers to indulge in their hesitation on the way to a confident purchase.
- Automation – In-store associates can be charming and convincing, but unless they're equipped with the right technology, they might not always be precise. Online sales channels create exciting opportunities for customization that connects consumers with the products and messages they resonate with the most. This also allows brands and consumers to keep in contact between visits to a physical store.
- Tech Issues – These might range from slow internet speeds to poorly-designed online stores. If and when this happens, customers are usually more than willing to abandon a purchase. They may be able to put up with hassles in person, but these glitches feel less acceptable online.
- Competition – Comparison shopping online is designed to be as easy as possible. Customers who are interested in what a wireless retailer has to offer can seamlessly find other options and base their purchasing decisions solely on price. This kind of cutthroat competition is less prevalent offline.
Wireless retailers have opportunities to make good impressions both in physical store locations and online. Rather than thinking about one channel or the other, think about the potential of an omnichannel strategy. This customer-centric approach makes it as easy as possible for consumers to purchase whatever they want, however they want. Instead of creating competition between sales channels, it's time to think about how your different retail spaces can work in unison to deliver a seamless shopping experience.
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