How in-person experiences can make or break e-commerce brands

Business is booming for e-commerce brands, so much so that many of them are expanding their reach with old-school brick-and-mortar stores. A recent study has shown that 67% of online brands have opened a physical store or showroom in the past three years. The reason? To connect with customers in a way that only face-to-face interactions can offer.

While for many e-commerce brands this is a great way to improve brand recognition, it can easily go sour if not done right. For popular online fashion brand Showpo, a foray into the world of brick-and-mortar stores demonstrated why it’s so important to prioritise connecting with customers on a deep level.

A pop-up sale at the brand’s Sydney warehouse sparked anger amongst customers after hundreds of people waited for hours in almost 40-degree heat only to find that the stock available didn’t live up to expectations. What could have been a great opportunity to provide an exceptional in-person experience for customers instead resulted in social media outrage from those who waited for hours in the sun without water, sunscreen, or any kind of acknowledgement from staff.

For any e-commerce brand thinking of taking the plunge into physical stores, this is a great lesson in the importance of nurturing customer relationships. How hard would it have been for someone to quickly drive to the supermarket and buy bottles of water to give out to people who were waiting in line? The gesture would have cost just a few hundred dollars compared to the tens of thousands of dollars worth of reputational damage and possible loss of loyal customers caused by leaving people to fend for themselves.

While Showpo CEO, Jane Lu, explained via the brand’s Instagram story that the fiasco was caused by 10x more people attending the event than expected, it doesn’t seem as though the brand prioritised customer experience from the get-go. Even without the large crowd, they didn’t take full advantage of face-to-face contact with their customers. Staff could have greeted them as they arrived or offered small gifts to customers to show their appreciation and ensure that customers left the experience feeling more connected with the brand.

With the brand’s reputation taking a beating following the event, it’s crucial that Showpo takes steps to reconnect with customers. If they collected details of those who attended the event, they should be giving them early or exclusive access to the next warehouse sale or online offer. Most importantly, they have an opportunity to make the next in-person event a celebration of their customers – making it a time to be generous and thank them for their loyalty. After being slammed by customers and the media, the focus needs to now be on creating talkability for the right reasons.

Overall, the business could have handled the situation better by being proactive, empathetic, and going above and beyond to show their care for customers. While Jane Lu did a good job of making herself accessible to customers and apologising soon after the event descended into chaos, Showpo ultimately missed several opportunities to improve customer experience and create an experience that would elevate its reputation rather than ruin it.

For any e-commerce business, it’s essential to overcompensate for the lack of face-to-face contact with customers by putting an important focus on building strong relationships with them. E-commerce misses out on some of the deeper levels of connection that can happen more easily with face-to-face interaction, so nurturing that connection is the key to creating a respected and successful brand.

If you’re an e-commerce business struggling to build strong, lasting relationships with your customers, Pure Public Relations can help. Get in touch with us today.

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