The Digital Meets the Physical

The Sewing Studio finds a solution to bridge the online and brick-and-mortar divide.

Over the last two decades, e-commerce has grown from strength to strength in both adoption rates and sales volume. Alongside this, customer behaviour has likewise evolved. The consumer journey has matured in terms of sophistication, with many factors influencing buying decisions at all points during the journey. Buyers move quickly across sales channels, demanding accurate information, convenience, great service, and validation from peers.

To meet the requirements of today's consumers, a wave of e-tailers have, in fact, made the return to the good old brick-and-mortar store, using these touch-points as a way to get closer to their customers, offer them a chance to truly interact with the brands, and leave an impressive brand mark on their minds.

Among these brands is The Sewing Studio, one of the largest sewing machines dealers in the United Kingdom, specializing in sewing machines, embroidery machines, sewing accessories and patchwork fabric. Having been in business for a while, The Sewing Studio has both online and physical presence with two e-commerce sites and a two-storey showroom. However, operating these two channels independently of each other has posed unique challenges for both brand and customer.

Running both offline and online channels separately means that data, especially CRM (Customer Relationship Management) data, is not optimally shared across both systems. This creates a negative impact on customers who shop on both the e-commerce site and the physical showroom. Each customer would need to create one user profile for the online store and another one for the brick-and-mortar shop. Changes in one profile, such as buying history, would not reflect on the other, creating an incomplete picture of buyer behaviour. This also posed problems in the roll out of The Sewing Studio's Rewards Points customer loyalty program. Points earned online could not be redeemed offline and vice-versa.

Recognizing this challenge, The Sewing Studio decided it was time to act. In 2017, they migrated their e-commerce websites to Magento 2 for a better digital experience. Along with that, they went on to find a new Point of Sale system that could be integrated with their online system in order to create a consistent shopping experience across both channels.

After a comprehensive trial, The Sewing Studio soon selected ConnectPOS as their new in-store Point of Sale system. It's main selling point? ConnectPOS synchronizes fully with the database and setup on their Magento 2 websites, especially the customer database. Now, shop operators can easily search for existing customers in the POS without having to manually export customer database from Magento and then import it to POS. The newly created customers in POS are synced instantly to Magento, so The Sewing Studio can maintain a unified customer database, which is the base for creating a seamless customer experience.

With buyer profiles now stored in one place, customers no longer have to worry about losing their brand values when they switch to a different sales channel. Their purchase history and the points they've accumulated, whether they shop online or at the showroom, are now part of the unified database. Their information is available on all the channels, so they can use their online points to pay for their offline purchases, and earn points for those in-store orders at the same time.

Positive customer feedback on these improvements has given The Sewing Studio incentive to further invest in enhancing the customer experience. They have since made efforts to streamline the process of buying and redeeming gift cards. Customers regularly choose to buy gift cards for their relatives and friends, especially during holiday seasons. Their relatives and friends can then choose to redeem those gift cards online or at their showroom, whichever is more convenient for them. Christmas 2017 was the first time they applied this policy and immediately saw the result: the sales of gift cards doubled compared to the previous year, and it has become their new revenue stream.

The Sewing Studio continues to focus on unifying their sales channels to offer customers a frictionless online-to-offline experience. With the back end database issues sorted, they are now enhancing their offline engagement through special classes for customers, including patchwork and quilt-based workshops, overlocker classes plus dressmaking courses and some other crafts to engage with customers more. They even have a self-service cafe right next to the classroom, which is ideal for workshop attendees to have lunch or shoppers to take a break (and their husbands and partners will be more patient if they have some good cups of tea while waiting too). With all of their efforts in creating an excellent shopping experience for customers, The Sewing Studio hope to raise sales online and in store by at least 20 - 30% by the end of 2018.

"The unified system has transformed our business," Matt Timmins, IT Manager of The Sewing Studio concludes.

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