April 23, 2014 Leave a Comment
In our previous post on the MarketLive Summit, we examined the importance of fluid technologies that empower merchants to deliver individualized experiences across touchpoints and adapt quickly to consumers’ changing expectations for online shopping. But there’s another benefit of adopting a flexible approach: merchants who do have the opportunity to tap their online resources to inform in-store shopping — making for a truly seamless brand experience.
As our previous post mentioned, “web-influenced sales” are forecast to represent more than half of all retail transactions as of this year, according to technology forecaster Forrester — and plenty of the online research influencing offline sales takes place onsite in a store. Google found that 84% of smartphone owners use their devices in-store. And, lest merchants fear losing those shoppers to the deep discounts of online mass merchants, Google also found that heavy smartphone shoppers also tend to spend 25% more in-store than those who only occasionally use their devices for research.
So rather than dreading “showrooming” activity, merchants should view pervasive online connectivity in stores as a benefit, and proactively provide ample opportunities to access brand content. Merchants thereby earn the double benefit of not only knitting together touchpoints but also boosting the reputation of brands as innovators. For example, during his keynote address at the MarketLive Summit, CEO Ken Burke demonstrated how Burberry has incorporated jaw-dropping technology into its flagship London store, with theater-sized screens livecasting fashion shows, smaller displays throughout the store enabling access to information about products nearby equipped with RFID tags, and store associates equipped with tablets for one-to-one customer assistance.
To tap the potential of fluidly transforming online content into offline sales, merchants should consider:
Broaden the concept of “conversion” on-site to drive offline activity. Merchants should use the eCommerce site to encourage on-site visits as well as drive online sales, with conversion goals tied to site activities that lead to offline brand interactions. At the Summit, Pat Duncan of Helzberg Diamonds detailed how the brand’s flagship eCommerce site encourages shoppers to continue their shopping journey at physical store locations. The Helzberg product page includes no fewer than four offline-conversion options: in-store appointment scheduling, looking up store inventory, ending an “e-hint” to a potential in-store gift buyer, and viewing financing offers, including the ability to apply for credit online.
Use e-receipts as a gateway to comprehensive customer records. Far from being the final point of contact between merchants and customers, the point-of-sale interaction in physical stores can be just the beginning of continued online engagement. By offering to send a receipt via email, merchants gain the opportunity to invite further interaction. Along with the receipt, brands can deliver an invitation to subscribe to email marketing updates, friend and follow the brand on social networks, and re-engage offline through store events. And email addresses can connect offline transactions to online behaviors, giving merchants a comprehensive view of shopping activities and boosting ROI of online initiatives.
Enable self-service in-store access to comprehensive content. Merchants struggling to justify content investments should look no further than their own stores, where the opportunity is ripe to introduce information-starved shoppers to the rich resources available online. Google found that one in three smartphone owners use their devices in lieu of seeking help from store staff, so it’s crucial for merchants to become the go-to resource for online information about their own offerings. Linking to buyers’ guides, product demonstration videos, and reviews gives in-store shoppers the opportunity to not only inform their purchases, but also builds confidence in the brand as a comprehensive resource.
Empower store associates to guide and transact on the spot. While reduced floor staff costs is an enticing potential outcome of making self-service content available in-store, merchants may find it more lucrative to put that content into the hands of their sales associates. Staffers empowered to consult online resources can combine the information gleaned from one-on-one interactions with the comprehensive content available via their mobile devices. By giving them access to coupons and discount offers and enabling checkout for in-store items and online order placement for out-of-stock products, merchants can help build trust and credibility with shoppers. Demonstrating on-the-ground expertise with products and pricing is a potential brand differentiator: More than half of 2013 holiday shoppers said they’re more likely to buy in stores where store associates are knowledgeable, according to consulting services firm Deloitte — but 59% of those shoppers believed themselves to be better equipped than store staff with information about pricing and product availability.
MarketLive is developing new functionality for its merchants to enable fluent in-store/online experiences — stay tuned! Meantime, how are you tapping online resources to drive offline sales?