Has COVID-19 Ushered In The Retail Apocalypse? (feat. Hawke Media)

After the COVID-19 pandemic clears up, will brick and mortar centric businesses be a thing of the past?

As we’ve all seen, online shopping has quickly become a staple in our everyday lives amidst widespread store closures. The world of eCommerce has been propelled ten years forward within the span of 6 (quarantined) months.

Shopify’s stock alone has practically doubled since early 2020. Large and small businesses alike are making the transition to eCommerce in droves.

Many businesses have decided to permanently close their retail locations.

Online shopping has become not just a preference, but a necessity.

Businesses are attempting to build their online presences in record time, and this is NOT easy work.

A lot is involved – choosing an eCommerce platform, building out a marketing plan, making sure the design is on point, undergoing constant optimization, maximizing AOV, managing SEO, optimizing conversion rates, and so much more.

Luckily, our partner Hawke Media specializes in the development, growth, and success of eCommerce businesses.

They’re damn good at what they do.

Hawke Media has provided us with great insight into what a business can expect when undergoing the digital transition.

Question 1: What is the biggest challenge a brick and mortar business may face when building their eCommerce presence?

Answer: There are three primary hurdles when adapting from brick & mortar to incorporate eCommerce into your business.

The first is managing your internal operations. Pivoting will often require you and your employees to acquire different skill sets and there will often be an internal knowledge gap that needs to be filled.

The second is technology. If your business hasn’t invested the time in developing your website, POS, and other SaaS integrations then, in the best-case scenario you won’t be able to collect valuable data, in a worst-case scenario you could lose customers because of suboptimal user experience.

Then there’s educating your customers. If your business is primarily brick & mortar your customers are likely used to shopping in-store and haven’t built the association with your brand and an online experience.

Question 2: How do you approach this issue with potential or current clients?

Answer: Short answer: We fill the knowledge gap.

Our team has a vast knowledge base that can assess your technology needs, create a plan, and build out a seamless online experience.

From start to revenue, our team has the capability to cover each stage of the transition. In the famous words of former Philadelphia 76ers guard Tony Wroten Jr., “Trust the process.”

For those who want to go it on their own, building a basic functional online experience for your customers requires a monetary investment, but most importantly it requires a significant time investment, which businesses are short on nowadays.

Bridging the gap between brick & mortar and eCommerce has always been a primary motivating factor for Gobot. Gobot provides our client’s customers with personalized, engaging,  24/7 support, helping them find the right product based on interests and needs while also addressing any questions they may have along the way.

Now, you might also be wondering whether or not classic brick and mortar is here to stay. In the next ten years, could we expect a vast majority of brands to make the final digital leap? Here are Hawke Media’s thoughts on the future of commerce…

Question 3: Ten years from now, where do you see the future of commerce? Could we expect a vast majority of brands to make the final digital jump?

Answer: Ten years feels like an eternity from now, but some interesting trends have started to emerge recently as many companies have turned to offering at least some portion of their customer experience digitally.

The things consumers want to see from a brand are changing with consideration for critical needs like health and safety. And along with that push born from necessity, consumers have begun to adapt their habits to incorporate a mix of online and offline.

The experience of digital and offline shopping will continue to integrate as things you might traditionally be able to buy physically become digital tender with cashless payments, vouchers, e-ticketing, buy online & pick up in-store, and so on.

A challenging category will be the future of apparel. Trying on clothes could give way to AI algorithms that automate the try-on process by matching users with clothes that are pre-determined to fit.

Another is grocery, which is currently experiencing its own disruption as food delivery gains wider adoption and Amazon tests cashless stores.

Over the next ten years, technology will continue to embed itself in the shopping experience to a higher and higher degree, so it will become a necessity for most businesses to get on board if they want to compete.

We certainly agree that the future of commerce is in the hands of technology. It is important for businesses to align themselves with the correct tools sooner rather than later in order to not fall behind.

As mentioned by Hawke Media, this might be especially true for apparel brands. Shopping for clothing is a unique, personal experience. It provides people with the ability to explore how they choose to express themselves, and as a result, can become quite complicated. When someone is looking for their next great outfit, they first need to figure out:

-What the store offers
-What is within their budget
-What clothes fit into their style
-What clothes will be comfortable in the environment they plan to wear them (beach, park, etc).
-So much more…

Historically, this is where experienced brick and mortar sales reps have been able to shine. They are pros at addressing all of the questions listed above and then some. Even if shoppers don’t know what they want (“Just looking”), with the right questions, browsing shoppers can be turned into happy customers at the end of a successful sales encounter. Online, however, is a completely different story.

Online, shoppers are often left to their own means and are stuck with poorly performing keyword search and confusing filters. The experience is impersonal, and shoppers often get overwhelmed by the sheer range of options (analysis paralysis). Uncertainty leads to abandonment.

For these reasons, eCommerce store conversions rates pail in comparison to brick and mortar conversion rates.

Our goal at Gobot is to dramatically increase eCommerce conversion rates and reduce abandonment.

With Gobot’s conversational search and intelligent automated support functionality, shoppers no longer need to fend for themselves. Designed to increase conversion rates and slash repetitive support tickets, Gobot IS the sales representative for your eCommerce store. It will find out where your customer’s interests are, provide key information along the way, and provide a personalized, guided shopping experience.

Want to learn more? Check out our in-depth eBooks on chatbots for eCommerce here.

Interested in Gobot’s services? Make sure to book a discovery call here.

Interested in connecting with Hawke Media? Send me an email at michael.carson@getgobot.com for a personal introduction!

Big thanks to Barron Rosborough from Hawke Media for his contributions.

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