Not all online shoppers become online buyers but they could become in-store customers.
Multichannel retailers can enhance the return from their online efforts with online marketing and advertising, site features and functionality that focus on driving in-store sales.
This is particularly relevant for retailers with high-touch products, those that do not have e-commerce site capabilities yet, or do not plan them, and those that lack an existing fulfillment infrastructure.
Beyond e-commerce and back to the future. The physical store clearly plays a significant role for a large percentage of online shoppers, including those who buy online. There are real issues that challenge an effective online transaction such as security, online merchandising, site navigation, users' technological skill and cagey shopping cart technology.
However, another real issue is that a percentage of those that “drop-off” or who do not complete an online transaction may not be online buyers but in-store customers.
Ipsos-Reid, Vancouver, British Columbia (June 2001), reports that 47 percent of online shoppers in the United States express “major” concerns with online credit card fraud. Yet, they are still shopping online and the numbers are growing.
According to a survey by Jupiter, New York (March 2001), 83 percent of online buyers would like to be able to return online purchases at offline stores, and 59 percent said that they would like to order a product online and pick it up at an offline store.
Furthermore, Millward Brown IntelliQuest, Naperville, IL (April 2001), reports that 78 percent of women in the United States use the Internet for product information before making a purchase, and 33 percent research products and services online before buying offline.
So how can retailers reach and motivate these online shoppers and convert them to in-store buyers?
Geographic targeting. Relevancy is key to all online marketing and advertising. When leveraged effectively, the Internet can offer broad reach and sophisticated targeting. Retailers can geo-target their online advertising and e-messaging to both existing and potential customers.
Target your online media and opt-in e-mail not only by interest and other demographics but also by geography to reach individuals where there are physical stores. The message content should also be geographically relevant, taking into consideration the unique needs and characteristics of the store locale. For example, consider integrating regional or city-specific promotion efforts or a sale promotion to move seasonal merchandise or excess inventory.
The geo-targeting strategy can also extend into your creative approach. Rich media banners or e-mail, for example, can include a store locator or online coupon to be redeemed in-store without even driving the online shopper to a Web site.
Most opt-in lists, online networks, portals, individual sites, online media and third-party ad-serving technologies offer geo-targeting capabilities such as city, state, ZIP code, area code and other sorts. A broader reach campaign to drive e-commerce can also be integrated with in-store efforts to test and compare the returns.
Include your inhouse list in your overall strategy and plans. Key to this effort is the capture of relevant data and opt-in permissions at the e-mail sign-up and other registration points. Bloomingdales.com and Sears.com, for example, would need to prompt opt-in subscribers to give geographical identifying information. Ask for it and tell them how this information will benefit them.
Exploit physical assets. “See the clothes online, buy them in the stores,” is the message on lanebryant.com with an explanation that e-commerce capabilities are in the works.
A transitional strategy to e-commerce can provide a tremendous opportunity to test conversion of online shoppers to in-store buyers and create a base line for measuring the relative profitability and return of e-commerce initiatives.
Of course, retailers should always have a store locator on the site with mapping directions and contact information. Always emphasize the convenience of store returns.
Bloomingdales.com, for example, cites “easy return to our stores,” and BedBathandBeyond.com tells online shoppers they “…can return anything bought online either through the mail or at any store.”
Provide incentives, options and features. Provide options, site features and incentives to online shoppers so they can tailor their buying experience to their needs and preferences.
When online shoppers are at checkout, consider offering the option to pick up their selections at the store — or use a pop-up window to entice shoppers who abandon their carts, offering them the opportunity to set it aside at their local store. Create a feature or enhance an existing feature to enable shoppers to develop and print out a shopping list from the site to bring to the store with an added discount or incentive.
Changes planned on Bloomingdales.com such as wish lists, for example, could serve a multichannel purpose. The use of targeted promotions, coupons, frequent-shopper rewards and special offers with in-store specials can both encourage online shopping and support in-store sales.
Enhancing the online shopping experience can also potentially reduce the in-store sales cost and increase profitability. Retailers can use their sites to help customers make purchasing decisions so that they are prepared to buy once they reach the store.
Measure the results. Measure conversions from online advertising and marketing to site conversions that indicate the likelihood of a store visit. Third-party ad serving can track the click response from a text link within a site or in an e-mail, and from banner ads through to various designated conversion points (or pages) within a Web site.
A measured conversion event might be the use of a store locator function within a site and the subsequent confirmation page. Third-party ad serving also offers the capability to track from an advertising impression (or served banner ad) to site conversion event even if the viewer never clicked on the ad. At a minimum this data can help identify what percentage of your site visitors are store shoppers.
Conversions to Web registrants can also be meaningful if your retail operation lends itself to in-store registrants (such as a bridal registry) where you can compare the site registrants' database to the store database. Other ways to measure results include tracking redemptions from promotional offers such as an online coupon.
The most effective strategies to drive in-store sales will vary based on the retailer's objectives, operational capabilities, sales channels, markets, merchandise, site functionality and future Internet plans. To the customer it is all one experience.
Keep focused on relevant and customer-centric practices. After all, customers count, not clicks.