In the age of e-Commerce, most consumers are used to the notion of instant gratification. With the growing acceptance of ‘on-demand’ options, they’ve become accustomed to quick and easy access to items and services with just the click of a button.
For some small, local businesses, this leaves them shaking in their boots at the thought of this “me-commerce” era that’s become entirely dependent on digital strategies. However, it is possible for brick-and-mortars to survive and — even better — thrive. A recent BrightLocal survey found that 97% of consumers looked online for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day.
It’s important to recognize that today, in-store experiences start online. To successfully elevate the customer journey, brick-and-mortars must view their digital presence as an integral part of their in-store strategy. Today’s consumer literally goes through your “digital door” first, and only then — if that experience is satisfying enough — does that consumer enter your physical door. It has become critical to blend these digital and physical experiences together for maximum success. Below are some tips to help better align online and offline experiences to generate improved perceptions of your business, increased foot-traffic and more sales.
Make Friends With Alexa
When searching for local businesses and products, consumers are frequently turning to voice technology like Amazon’s Alexa. According to new data from NPR and Edison Research’s “The Smart Audio Report,” one in six Americans now own a smart device. Thanks to AI technologies like Alexa and Siri, shoppers can be directed towards exactly what they are looking for with one short command. As this technology continues to become more prominent in our cars, kitchens and cellphones, brick-and-mortars must ensure that their online data is searchable for voice assistants and their owners who are always on the go.
To capture high-intent shoppers, business owners should invest in search marketing geotargeting functions like “Google Location Extensions” to ensure voice searches, such as “dealership near me” or “appliances retailer in my area,” result in their business showing up on page one.
Ensure Your Online Presence Matches Offline Experiences
According to PwC’s 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey, more than one in three consumers rank ‘trust in brand’ as one of the top three factors that influence their decision to shop at a particular retailer (other than price). The same report found a big contributor to this “trust” factor stems from social networks. That’s why demonstrating shared opinions and user-generated content are key. For businesses, this means cultivating a strong online review platform of shared opinions. Consumers are always seeking insights from their peers — whether it is someone who has tried the product before, a friend or a store employee. Sometimes a simple “this is a bestseller,” or, “I’ve tried it and loved it — here’s why,” is all it takes.
Additionally, take title to your physical location information that is scattered around the digital world. When a would-be buyer gets conflicting address, map or phone contact information because you haven’t maintained your information, they feel friction around your “digital door” and likely won’t end up at your physical door.
Deliver On The In-Store Experience
Consumers today want everything to be an experience and that experience needs to show consistency in the digital touches as well as the physical ones. That’s why the industry is beginning to see brick-and-mortars adopt a more “showroom” feel in-store. For instance, Nordstrom opened “Nordstrom Local” in 2017, which doesn’t include a dedicated inventory, but rather an atmosphere built directly around the customer experience where shoppers can make returns, pick up online orders or meet with personal stylists. Creating centralized locations where customers can easily put products to the test and get customized point-of-views from experienced staff results in personalized experiences for those high-intent consumers seeking a real, interactive experience they can’t get online.
Embrace E-Commerce Giants
Growing a business during the rise of e-Commerce may in turn lead companies to join forces with online behemoths through platforms such as the Amazon marketplace. If your inventory matches that of the products sold in these spaces, it may be beneficial to create an expanded online presence for your company through a third party. However, it is critical that before partnering up, businesses carefully evaluate the impact third-party sales can have on their initiatives. Attracting digital shoppers is key, as long as the process follows the strategic business plan in place.
Aligning in-store strategies with direct consumer engagement is critical to coexisting with e-Commerce giants and creating a successful omnichannel strategy. By incorporating these simple tips, small and local businesses can enhance the in-store experience to ultimately drive traffic, encourage repeat purchases and increase their bottom line.
Brendan Morrissey is the CEO and Co-founder of Netsertive, an award-winning technology company offering a digital marketing intelligence platform that brings brands and local businesses together to win local customers. Morrissey has more than 10 years of experience in mobile/wireless, online, telecom and marketing technology environments. Prior to starting Netsertive in 2009, he was the VP of Business Development for Motricity, a mobile portal services company, where he played a major role in the growth, subsequent sale and integration of venture-backed GoldPocket Wireless prior to Motricity’s acquisition. Morrissey has previously held leadership positions at Nextel Communications, InternetConnect and global consultancies KPMG (BearingPoint) and CSC Consulting.