Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
With the recent growth in mobile shopping, coupled with new technologies that bring online shopping to the physical world (and vice-versa), the lines between online and offline have blurred. It’s no longer prudent to keep offline and online marketing efforts completely separate from one another, yet many retailers still do. Below are some tips for blending your digital and physical marketing efforts, to increase sales and give your customers a better, more consistent shopping experience across your different channels, ultimately strengthening your brand.
Combine online and offline promotions and customer interactions
With the current craze around sites like Groupon and Living Social, many brands are making offers online that can be redeemed in a physical store. Aside from the obvious benefits of reaching people wherever they are, these types of online offers also allow retailers to track the influence of the web on in-store purchases. Similarly, you can give customers a special code on the receipt from their in-store purchase that can be entered online to receive additional offers. If you have persistent cookies in place, you can then tie this purchase to previous online activity, and continue to monitor how the customer interacts with your brand.
You can also bring the online shopping experience in-store by adding kiosks that shoppers can use to search for product information and availability in real time – and check for other locations or order it online if the store they’re in is out of stock.
Maintain a consistent experience across multiple channels
As today’s shoppers conduct research, compare prices and make purchases from a variety of places – e.g. their computer, mobile device, catalog, or in a physical store – they should have a consistent experience with your brand across all channels. For example, be sure the look and feel of your website matches the look and feel of your catalog – and also extend this as much as possible to your mobile commerce site (although you obviously have less space to work with), your advertising, and your physical stores if you have any.
Additionally, your site search should take your catalog items into account, so that if someone types a product number from the catalog in the search box, they should then be taken straight to the product page. You should also include catalog page numbers on product pages and search results pages on your website, so people can refer back to the catalog if they wish. Also, as user ratings have become a popular feature on e-commerce sites, you can include the star ratings on product labels in the store and in your catalog, and you can take it a step further by including a call for people to look up the product on a kiosk or their mobile device to see the ratings and read reviews.
Provide flexibility and convenience online and offline
Many multi-channel retailers have a larger product inventory in their catalog (whether online or offline) than they do in their store, since an online store takes up virtual shelf space. While a physical store offers the convenience of being able to touch and see a product up close, many shoppers like to spend time thinking or comparison shopping before making a purchase. And if they do decide to purchase, they may prefer to buy online rather than return to the store, so make sure anything that can be bought in the store or catalog can be bought online. Additionally, when customers purchase online, give them the option to pick up the item in a store, as they may prefer not to pay shipping charges or they may not want to wait but rather pick-up the item right away at a local store.
Another convenience worth considering is offering free Wi-Fi to your store shoppers. A recent survey conducted by Wi-Fi software provide Devicescape shows that 80.5% of consumers prefer to shop at a retail store that offers Wi-Fi rather than one that doesn’t. Also, 65% said they’d use the free Wi-Fi to sign up for club cards, store memberships and coupons. Additionally, when you provide wireless connectivity in your store, you encourage people to use their mobile devices, where they might be compelled to talk about their purchase on social networks, post photos or find additional product information that can influence their decision to buy.
Keep search a focal point on web and mobile sites
Search remains a preferred way for visitors to browse a site – and also generates more conversions than standard navigation. To build your mobile presence, you need to understand that consumers “hunt” for products on mobile devices and browse for products on websites – in other words, on a mobile device they want to quickly find a specific product and information, whereas on the web they have more time and a better interface for digital window shopping. Either way, a good site search is critical – and particularly on mobile devices, search should be the focal point. It must deliver relevant information and it must be fast. You should also make it easy for customers to compare prices, read consumer reviews and order products they’ll pick up later in your store – all from their mobile devices.
These are just a few ideas to get you started, and there are many other ways you can get creative and come up with your own unique online/offline blend. Just be sure that whatever you do, you provide a consistent, convenient experience to your customers across all channels. Doing so will help you deliver a better brand experience to your customers, increasing your visibility and solidifying even greater customer loyalty.