It is difficult to overstate the impact that the rise of e-commerce has had on the customer experience. From pre-purchase to post-purchase, and everything in between, the digitization of business has helped to make the retail industry one where products are more accessible, processes more economical and shopping platforms more efficient. Moreover, shoppers have responded overwhelmingly well to it. In fact, recent stats reveal that more than 55 percent of U.S. consumers now prefer shopping online to visiting a store in person.
What does that mean for the live and in-person retail experience? Are the days of brick-and-mortar businesses fading? Scott Swanson, CEO of Bonder, does not think so. Rather, Scott believes that the technology that Bonder provides promises to spark a renaissance for retail stores by reshaping the traditional retailer-customer relationship and redefining the shopping experience across the entire retail industry.
“What is the experience? That is the question that all businesses need to be asking, but especially startups,” he explains. “Online purchasing is extremely fast and efficient, but it can also be very robotic. Businesses can’t forget that their customers are human beings in search of human experiences. Many of the best retail businesses in the world successfully grew by focusing on delivering that human experience.”
Bonder is a location-based communication platform that brings people together for meaningful human interactions, immersive retail experiences, business building and more. It fosters a space where people from local businesses and communities can create their own personal and professional circles without worry of surveillance, advertising or data collection.
Swanson says the rise of social media, which has led many people to focus on digital acquaintances and to settle for digital connections, has presented a host of new challenges for retailers. Customers now enter stores focusing on their phones rather than on what is happening right in front of them. He also says the wrong response is trying to compete with the content that is flooding social platforms.
“Many businesses have become so focused on getting likes, gaining followers and encouraging deep engagement online that they are no longer focused on what happens when someone walks through the door of their store,” he says. “What is important for retailers now is coming back to the roots of retail — the human interaction. The key is to stop trying to get your store popular on Instagram and start trying to get your store popular with your local community. It is time to turn the focus back to building community at the local level.”
Repurposing social platforms to enhance the customer experience
Swanson’s push for a local connection does not mean he is against digital connection. In fact, this could not be further from the truth; his vision is to repurpose digital communication platforms in a way that enhances the customer experience.
“We all want some sort of a digital, tactile experience everywhere we go, and you can have that,” Swanson says. “The problem is that the digital experience should be enhancing the retail experience, which it currently is not. The communications platform is not letting us communicate in a helpful way once we are in the store, nor is it adding something positive to the customer experience.”
The innovative experience that Bonder brings to retail facilitates a more empowering, meaningful and memorable customer experience. In essence, Bonder connects users with the store that they are visiting, rather than with the store’s social media streams. Using proximity-based data, Bonder’s technology makes sure that users have the best in-store experience by getting the help that they need, finding the products that they want, and being made aware of any discounts that are available.
When a shopper walks into a store and opens the Bonder app, they can see every department in the store and every employee in those departments. They can connect with those employees by sending them a message with their questions or concerns. Employees can then respond with answers, help and even discounts that can be claimed while the customer is still in the store. In essence, Bonder provides the human connection in a digital fashion.
“Social media is all the same platform, just repackaged in different ways. It’s all about posting photos, posting videos and making statements,” he explains. “Bonder’s platform is a more mindful technology used to create ecosystems of people helping people. It is a more efficient way to bring the world together.”
Giving shoppers helpful digital tools
In addition to creating a more helpful connection with the local store, Bonder also facilitates a helpful connection with other shoppers. Those looking for information on a product — how it works, if it works well, where it is available, where you can find the best price, etc. — can seek guidance from other Bonder users, rather than relying on the promotional information that the manufacturer or store provides. The result is a more empowered, more equipped shopper who can make more informed decisions from the feedback provided by their community.
Scott says the community component that Bonder offers will provide users with benefits that go far beyond an enhanced retail experience.
“I believe that Bonder’s true success will come from empowering users to build purposeful ecosystems of people who are doing things together and helping each other,” he explains. “Bonder gives its users all the tools they need to gather a whole community of people who can help them to live a better life, and puts that community right at their fingertips.”
Building retail businesses one experience at a time
For startups that are ready to focus more resources on their in-person customer experience, he says the key is taking one experience at a time, making sure it is a positive, human experience. In many cases, providing that type of experience is the one competitive advantage that startups have over bigger, more established businesses.
“Small is where you start to get big,” he says. “And you grow because people are saying, ‘Wow, that was a beautiful experience. I feel connected to them.’ Our heart and soul as a company is to give retailers responsible technology that pivots us back to each other, back to our communities, and back to local stores.”