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Guest Blog: What Brick and Mortar Business Can Learn from Online Business

This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post, Rob Carpenter talks about what brick-and-mortar businesses must do to compete with online businesses to keep customers.  He mentions four tactics that I believe will help you be more successful. – Shep Hyken  We live our lives immersed in tech and the online world. Ping, […]

This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post, Rob Carpenter talks about what brick-and-mortar businesses must do to compete with online businesses to keep customers.  He mentions four tactics that I believe will help you be more successful. – Shep Hyken 

We live our lives immersed in tech and the online world. Ping, ping! You received a new email. Beep, beep! You received a new text message. Boop, boop! Two more people liked your Facebook status. It’s not surprising, then, that more and more people are turning to online shopping.

That doesn’t, under any circumstance, mean that brick-and-mortar businesses are going the way of the newspaper. It does mean that the way consumers like to shop and be treated is changing. Their priorities are changing completely.

In order to keep up with online business, brick-and-mortar businesses will need to steal some popular eCommerce philosophies and tactics. Here are the top four:

1. Personalize to Survive

You’ve heard of segmentation and personalization, right? It seems like online marketing 101, but it’s relevant to those of us running brick-and-mortar businesses too.

Whether we like to admit it or not, the average customer experience feels shallow. It’s a pre-packaged smile, sales pitch and handshake. One size fits all.

Online, some companies are discovering the power of personalization. Mass emails are addressed to specific subscribers, sales funnels are based on previous behavior, etc.

Hire a diverse sales and customer service team. Representatives from all walks of life. Representatives who understand the various customers you’re targeting. Establish a personal connection with them. Get to know their personal story; it’s different than any other customer’s story.

2. Instant Service, Instant Sale

We all know the Internet is propelling the “instant everything” culture. It’s not just Gen Y that doesn’t want to wait around. 71% of online shoppers expect assistance within five minutes. If they don’t receive it, 48% will abandon the site, never to be heard from again.

Still not convinced that time is money online? A one second (yes, really) delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. What makes us think that response time isn’t equally as important to brick-and-mortar companies?

Hire enough representatives! Make sure they stand out in the store. If you can’t afford a large staff team, install “customer service request” buttons throughout the store and empower your employees to respond to requests quickly.

3. Everybody is Comparison Shopping

This lesson is twofold. Online reviews and price comparisons reign supreme. We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think the same applies to brick-and-mortar businesses.

Word of mouth alone is a powerful medium. Consumers are two times more likely to share their bad customer service experiences than they are to talk about positive experiences. What’s worse is that it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative experience. Put two and two together and the outlook is not so good.

Aside from word of mouth, we have to take mobile devices into account. In-store consumers are comparison shopping on their phones and tablets. They’re looking up product and store reviews online. If they find a better deal or review somewhere else, don’t be surprised if they walk out.

Be aware of the word of mouth and mobile tech effect. Great in-store service will leave them with a positive customer experience and little time to consult the mobile world. Now more than ever, being present in-store and maintaining a good reputation at all costs is vital.

4. Short-Term Sale, Long-Term Gain

Online businesses are forever concerned with retention. They want an “in” and permission to reconnect with consumers after the initial purchase. They’ll request an email address or, in some cases, a zip code before processing the purchase.

The most valuable customer is the one you never lose, right? Online businesses believe it. After all, it is six to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.

Brick-and-mortar businesses, however, have less concrete retention plans. Sure, the odd representative will ask for an email address at the POS, but the request is normally quickly denied. Why? Consumers don’t want to be marketed to and they know exactly what you’re up to!

As it turns out, a great customer experience has a huge impact on retention. If you want to open the door to long-term gain after a short-term sale, make sure the customer experience is flawless.

A customer is four times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service-related vs. price- or product-related. At the end of the day, studies have found that customer churn is attributed to the poor quality of customer service.


Boom, boom! E-commerce is exploding and is only expected to continue on this path. In order to keep up with the changing space, brick-and-mortar businesses will need to take a cue from online businesses and put a heavy emphasis on customer experience.

Offer a personalized experience, ensure speedy customer service, maintain your reputation to fuel word of mouth, and don’t ignore the importance of retention. That’s it. Those are the four biggest lessons to learn from the online business boom.

About the Author

Rob Carpenter is the Director of Marketing at Evergage, a real-time web personalization and customer success platform that automates response to what people are doing on your website the moment they do it. He writes on how to utilize customer intelligence data to increase web conversions and drive engagement at each stage of the customer lifecycle on the Evergage blog. Follow him on Twitter and sign up for the Evergage blog for more customer experience content.

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