There are a few “signs of the times” that most retailers would agree on:
- Online sales as a percentage of total sales is growing for all retailers
- Amazon is a competitor for all retailers
- Showrooming — the practice of looking at something in a store and then buying it cheaper online — is becoming increasingly common
However, the strategies for online and offline sales are often completely different, and companies are struggling to create a cohesive experience within the two.
Even Apple only brought its offline and online stores together in Q4 2013 when they hired Angela Ahrendts (former CEO of Burberry) to manage both. Apple is a good example of a company that added an online presence to an offline business.
Indeed, most items sold online today are sold by companies that were selling offline first — and even today, many of these companies suffer from being digital second.
It’s obviously easier if you launched your company after the internet took off — but you don’t have to be an Amazon, Kayak or Fresh Direct (all with digital-only offerings) to have an excellent digital strategy. Despite the differences, the physical and the digital are coming closer together, and the winners are the companies that use the learnings of others to better themselves.
Advantages Of Digital-Only Companies
If you are solely digital, then many digital tactics are more obvious and accessible than if you have a physical presence, as well. For example, using all of your customer data for marketing purposes is easy.
However, for those with both an online and offline presence, matching in-store purchases to digital footprints is also now possible (though quite complicated).
Today, it behooves everyone to use their offline sales data for their digital offerings. Companies have always communicated to their customers using the data available at their fingertips — but companies using site retargeting generally only use the site browsing data for their retargeting purposes. As a result, they are missing out on the ability to leverage their entire customer relationship management (CRM) suite, which can also assist in advertising efforts and more personalized communication.
Replicate Offline Upselling Techniques Online
Many companies with physical stores use digital campaigns to drive foot traffic because people usually buy more when they are in a store vs. online. However, the same experience can be replicated online. Fresh Direct does a fantastic job of suggesting extra items to buy every time you put something in your shopping cart.
People are different. Some love to shop for hours in a store — they don’t really know what they want, and they revel in the entire retail experience. Others may loathe shopping, preferring to spend time researching online before they pull the trigger with their mouse.
To reach both types of people, marketers should be segmenting their audiences and encouraging the people who never visit the physical store to shop more online instead of running digital campaigns aimed at driving everyone to show up in person.
The big challenge is getting the people responsible for digital and physical sales to work together and then use the data from both in-store and online to improve the experience for your customers.
The retail experience is the epitome of immersive advertising. Everywhere you turn, your customers are surrounded by your brand. Increasingly, the judicious use of physical retail outlets are being seen as advertising opportunities as much as they are sales opportunities.
A Brick-And-Mortar Store = The Ultimate Immersive Experience
For example, the Apple Stores serve every bit as much as an advertisement for Apple as they do a channel to increase sales. The reverse is often true, as well. Urban Outfitters does a wonderful job of immersing you in the Urban Outfitters experience online — they let you add items to a wish list, tell you if they are available in a store (for pickup) or online, and even tell you the size of the model and the size of the dress she is wearing so you can see how it would fit. All of these brand messages act as advertisements, encouraging users to buy online or find the nearest location.
All in all, virtually any weakness of a physical store can be parlayed into strength, and the same is true for digital experiences. As an industry, we should be thinking about all retail experiences as cohesive, seamless experiences and not as e-commerce vs. commerce and e-tail vs. retail.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.