In the early era of online shopping, retailers kept their online and offline channels separate, seeing these consumer behaviours as distinct. Today, we know that couldn’t be further from the truth. For every online purchase resulting from a search, Google reports that multi-channel retailers receive additional in-store visits. And we know that more than 60% of shoppers look up product information and prices while using their mobile phones in stores.
The digital and physical worlds are truly blended, and the purchase journey is no longer linear. To win and maintain business, retailers must facilitate a seamless online-to-offline experience that mirrors the way consumers naturally navigate the shopping journey.
Here are three strategies for facilitating online-to-offline success.
Promote consistency across channels.
The first step in creating a seamless experience is making sure that consumers can transition smoothly between online discovery and offline purchase. Approximately 80% of US internet users prefer to use a search engine to find or look up information about local businesses, but converting consumer research into sales is impossible if your business doesn’t surface in local search results — or if it shows up with incorrect details (like the wrong address or an outdated product list). Managing the digital information about your business has a much bigger impact on discoverability, and resulting foot traffic, than you might assume.
Here’s an example: When GUESS needed to promote online discovery for its local bricks-and-mortar stores, the retailer found that providing consistent information across the maps, apps, and AI-driven services customers use every day was key to bringing online searchers into their offline locations. In working with Yext, the brand updated critical store location information across more than 100 publishers, and worked with Yext App Directory partner Radius8 to provide a localised experience to digital users — resulting in a consistent presence that boosted impressions across the board.
Within six months, this drove a 31% increase in search impressions year-over-year — showing that promoting consistency and building a holistic view across channels pays off.
Blend the digital and the physical.
Making sure that consumers can move easily from digital research to online or offline purchase is mission critical. But technology can also be leveraged in stores to reflect the hybrid way in which people now live their lives.
Equipping store associates with tablets to quickly look up merchandise online while assisting customers is one tactic. Interactive screens that allow customers to scan for prices, or look for items in other sizes or colours — without having to wait in line for someone’s help — are another tactic.
Additionally, buy online, pick-up in-store initiatives are a smart way for businesses to cater to consumers’ desires to shop online but acquire their merchandise faster than shipping allows. Buy online, pick up in-store programmes are easier to implement than some other omnichannel strategies, as they don’t require widespread rollouts of new in-store technology (like smart mirrors do, for example) — and so are a comparatively simple investment for retailers who already have physical stores and offer online sales.
An added bonus for businesses? Research indicates that over 75% of millennials make an additional purchase during in-store pick up.
Remember that a seamless experience starts internally.
While omnichannel initiatives can be a great way to boost sales, it’s important to remember that executive buy-in is critical to making an online-to-offline strategy succeed across an organisation.
"Great omnichannel experiences start with the internal organisation. You need support from both the business and IT from the beginning if you want to be successful,” Lyle Bunn, a retail analyst and marketing consultant, told Retail Customer Experience. “Often marketing leads an initiative that brings new technology into the store, but without support, it will be hard to scale the solution to all stores.”
Consistency is key when it comes to making sure all business locations are both discoverable online, and equipped with appropriate resources offline. So for an initiative like this to succeed, that mindset needs to be embodied from the top down.
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