How In-Person Connection Can Actually Matter For Online Retailers

How In-Person Connection Can Actually Matter For Online Retailers
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

Ivan Lim (pictured above), CEO and co-founder of Melbourne-based furniture company Brosa, believes there’s still a role for in-person connection in a post-COVID world and he’s offering advice for other brands foraying into physical events and offerings.

As the emphasis on remote working and online retail grows, we shouldn’t lose sight of the critical need for in-person connection.

Remote can offer flexibility and improved productivity, but much can be missed. Productive ideation, a sense of collegiality, non-verbal cues, eye contact, and seeing and touching products in person –– this can all be forgotten when we operate exclusively in silos.

COVID hasn’t killed physical connection–– if anything losing contact for so long has highlighted just how critical it is for our business and others in the retail space.

At Brosa, we offer our employees the flexibility to work remotely as much as they like. We also operate mainly online. But alongside our virtual experience, we’re still focused on the important aspects of community, connection, and comradeship.

Re-connecting is proving impactful for businesses like ours and we believe all retailers can benefit.

Showcase your brand’s experience

At Brosa, while 80 percent of our sales are online, we still maintain an essential retail presence. Our physical footprint allows customers to meet us in person, ask questions, and see and touch our pieces in the studio –– an opportunity that some people prefer in person.

Brosa customers love to come in and see the showroom and experience our products. And post-COVID, the demand for this has increased. Moving past the pandemic, our in-studio sales are surpassing our pre-COVID levels and customers are showing a renewed enthusiasm for real-life connection.

It goes to show that having a way to showcase your products is key. While many sales may begin online –– and no one can deny that online is critical for success –– research shows that roughly 80 percent of sales are still occurring through brick-and-mortar stores.

For retailers, maintaining the option for customers to physically see your products offers a level of authenticity and transparency. It’s a way to prove that your products do exactly as you say.

The human element in the sales process also shouldn’t be underestimated –– people don’t just buy products, they buy stories too. Without that human connection, that story is limited to a two-dimensional world.

Offer a base for employees

At Brosa, we’re remote-first. With that, our employees gain more freedom to spend time doing what they love –– all while working in a space that’s most comfortable for them.

We know though, remoteness brings its challenges. A sense of community, genuine connection for new starters, and effective ideation sessions can be lost online. That’s why we still have our physical headquarters in Fitzroy –– an open space for all employees to come to if they choose to.

Since re-opening in February, we’ve seen most who live locally take the chance to work in-office a few days per week. It allows us to help new starters feel part of the team, hold more productive brainstorming sessions, and help teammates reconnect with one another.

Giving your employees a physical base ensures they feel part of a community –– it’s an experience that Zoom simply can’t offer.

Create content together

We’ve learned that large-scale content production is simply better when all parties can be present. Whether it’s a photo shoot or video production, you cannot replicate the ease of having stylists, talent and crew physically present.

The ability to be nimble, ideate, and cross-pollinate ideas all happens in person as you create.

When done remotely, creating large-scale content is challenging to orchestrate, it takes longer, and frankly, the resulting content is subpar. When you bring a team together under one roof, that’s when the magic happens. You have the chance to create content at its best.

Celebrate human connection with events

Events aren’t just a way to market your products, they’re a way to build rapport and connect with your community. Being heavily online, we’ve always valued events. Now, post-COVID, we appreciate them more than ever and it appears our customers do too. Since restrictions have eased, we’ve seen healthy turnouts and a newfound eagerness for connection.

For online retailers, the power and benefit of physical events can’t be underestimated. They provide a temporary investment where retail stores don’t exist. Events also offer your customers a human touchpoint that the online world cannot.

To have effective events, though, authenticity is important. The intention shouldn’t just be to sell to customers nor generate leads, but rather to delight attendees with an experience. To do this, there must be true alignment between the event and your brand. The experience should be seamless –– if your brand isn’t additive to the event, it’s likely to be forgotten.

A sense of community is critical too. Brands should seek out community events to be a part of, and support community events rather than hold events for the brands’ sake. COVID has created a new emphasis on supporting the local community and industry and brands should be part of this conversation. Consider this: you have the responsibility to participate and contribute to the communities you retail in.

While online is offering Brosa true flexibility, post-COVID we have the opportunity to create arguably more meaningful contact in person. Whether through physical events, bricks and mortar stores, or collaborating as a team –– the benefits of human connection can never be truly replaced.

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