Guest Blogger, Patrick Foster: Why Store Service Isn’t Only For Your Bricks And Mortar Hardware Store

Image credit:    PublicDomainPictures

Image credit: PublicDomainPictures

Being a standout retailer in the digital age is a daunting challenge, because internet retail and broadened supply networks have ensured that many store experiences feel very similar. Inside a physical hardware store, you at least have the chance to set yourself apart through providing incredible customer service. What about on your website?

After all, you can’t send forth a support assistant on a website, and utility demands that every website have roughly the same structure. But you can still provide great store service on a website. In fact, it’s more important that you do so — and here’s why:

It’s hard to keep online visitors around

When you walk into a physical hardware store, it’s inconvenient to walk out right away. This makes you inclined to stick around for a few minutes at least to see if there’s something worth your time. When you visit a website, though, you can leave immediately.

Consequently, no matter how difficult it is, you simply must try to provide support through your website. Whether through online orders or store collections, there’s a lot of revenue riding on it — especially since online buying is only going to get bigger as time goes by.

The industry standard isn’t too intimidating

Big retail brands have mastered in-store support schemes, and invest heavily in improvements. Home Depot, for instance, continues to run big-picture internship programs with an eye on new technologies — and since big brands invariably have much more substantial premises, it’s tough to excel as a smaller hardware store in a competitive area.

Online, though, the low bar to entry means that the standard of support is much lower. Plenty of DIY sites are stocked with the imports and flipped on storefront marketplaces for quick profit — the owners don’t always care about creating lasting customer relationships.

This means that even a modest effort to assist people can earn you some loyalty — attention to detail and burgeoning brand equity can help you create long-standing customer relationships. Starting off in ecommerce for the first time means investing in your brand value proposition to help you stand out from the crowd.

Think about how you can embrace a multichannel customer service approach from day one for your new store, making the most of support channels like chatbot, emails, and social media. Other new online businesses can provide valuable data on the current state of ecommerce customer experience — a cursory glance will show that investing in a few core channels, rather than spreading yourself too thin, pays off.

Good online store service is easier than you think

You can’t rely on classic store service methods online but doesn’t mean that it’s harder to support someone through a website. In some ways, it’s actually easier. Here’s how to do it:

 l  Be easy to find. It’s no use having a great website if people can’t find it, so make sure you’ve covered SEO (including local SEO for people near your physical store).

Provide an FAQ section. Your website visitors will have certain popular queries, so include a section to answer them as expediently as possible.

Implement live chat. If someone needs help — perhaps they’re trying to find a particular item — then your team can provide it through live chat.

Be active on social media. Shoppers use different channels to express frustration, so don’t stick to your website. Monitor your brand everywhere and step in when needed.

 Use these tips to offer great support online, and start reaping the benefits.

 

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