Odds are, before your customers ever walk into your brick-and-mortar store, they’ve researched what they plan to buy from it online. Consumers seek out a complete shopping experience — from browsing on their mobile phone to browsing in the store — and because of this, online search has become a powerful way to direct prospects to your business.
New research from Google, conducted with Ipsos Media CT and Sterling Brands, shows that 75 percent of buyers who find helpful information in search results are more likely to visit those stores. If pertinent information is not easily available online, shoppers often stay away: The same research shows that 25 percent of consumers say they will not visit the store if they can’t confirm the product is in stock online.
As a retailer, you need to think of yourself as a provider of a shopping experience, rather than just a seller of products. The path to purchase is becoming a cross-channel experience, with online research and the in-store visit being integrated into one “purchase experience.”
Because of this, it’s essential that you market your store’s products online, and sync these marketing efforts with in-store operations. Only then will the customer see both the online and in-store presence as complementary and interchangeable — which will help your bottom line. Here are four ways to make sure you have a successful multichannel marketing strategy.
1. The Same Brand Everywhere
The first step is to ensure that your brand’s look — and story — are consistent online and in-store. What do customers say after they’ve interacted with your company? What pain point does the business solve? Who is the audience? How would an outsider describe the company?
Allow individuals to identify themselves to the brand by personalizing the customer experience. On the website, it’s easy to use cookie technology to identify a visitor. In store, it becomes much more difficult unless geofencing or beacons are used. Connecting the two is even more challenging, but with a multichannel strategy, customers expect to be recognized regardless of their method of interaction.
2. The Same Information Available Everywhere
Next, make sure the same information is available in the store and on the website. For example, consumers should be able to go online to find information on price, product availability and the location of the nearest outlet. Keep in mind, you’ll have to compete with retail leaders like Sears and Office Depot, who use local inventory ads to drive in-store traffic.
One of the success stories in providing a seamless multichannel experience is Disney. Once customers have booked a trip online, they can use the “My Disney Experience” tool to plan the details. In the park, visitors can use their mobile app to locate the attractions and gauge the estimated wait time for each. Disney’s MagicBand program also has FastPass access, hotel room keys, photo storage and a food-ordering tool.
3. The Same Customer Service Everywhere
With a multichannel strategy, there are more and more ways for customers to communicate with a company — phone, email, chat, social channels, etc. Unfortunately, the small business needs to cover all of these avenues because the customer journey can be so varied.
Each of these channels also has different response-time expectations. Customers might be willing to wait only a few minutes for a response on chat, versus 24 to 48 hours for an email reply. This article discusses five different customer service apps for mobile devices, which will help your business improve response time.
Customers expect the company to know who they are when they send an email, text or review via a social media site. Because of this, it helps to identify your top customers; you can do this by tracking their sales history through POS systems such as QuickBooks Point of Sale.
Studies show customers who engage with a brand online will spend 20 to 40 percent more on their products; clearly, the effort put toward customer service can have a significant return on investment.
4. The Reason to Buy Everywhere
Finally, give the consumer a reason to come to the store and purchase. Showrooming is an increasing trend: Customers examine a purchase in store only to go online and purchase it at a lower price from another merchant. Here is what small business owners can do to fight back:
- Educate the staff. While customers will educate themselves through online research, they still like to talk to in-store staff to find the right product. This in-person employee engagement is a huge competitive advantage. All staff members should have easy access to resources (iPads and other tablet devices) that tell them every product in the store, as well as quick information about online competitors.
- Provide instant checkout. Eliminate lines for purchase. Allow customers to check out with any sales person with a tablet or smartphone device as soon as they have finished shopping.
- Offer free Wi-Fi. Use tablets, beacons and other electronic hardware to enhance the in-store experience, and provide additional information or in-store discounts.
The reality is that more than 50 percent of all searches today are done on mobile devices. However, 70 percent of commerce is still bought and sold offline. A multichannel marketing strategy is the best and most fruitful way to attract customers and sell more of your products.