Consumers often research online while shopping in a store.

More than a third of shoppers research a product online while in a store. These consumers like to consult a variety of channels, from social media and online stores to referral sites and price comparison apps, before making a buying decision.

The rise of the omni-shopper—the consumer who purchases across multiple channels—means retailers need to look at their online presence as an opportunity to sell rather than a threat to their in-store sales.

The good news is omni-shoppers are still buying from bricks-and-mortar retailers. The bad news? If your online presence doesn’t shape up, you could be losing out on sales at the exact moment you should be making them.

Inspire confidence

Shoppers’ confidence relates to whether you can deliver a promised product in a reasonable time, for a reasonable price. There is a threefold expectation that the product is as described, the sales process is seamless, and there is recourse if there is an issue with the product. This applies to purchases from both online and physical stores.

To inspire confidence in your online store:

  • Provide detailed product photos that allow shoppers to zoom in and rotate the item, or provide images from different angles. Support this with specs like the product’s size/dimensions, materials, colours and/or care instructions.
  • Simplify the purchase process. This includes an easily accessed shopping cart with a clear, itemised list of purchases. Ensure the total includes any fees such as shipping. You also need a checkout timeline that shows the steps the buyer needs to go through, and a guest checkout option—many shoppers see a compulsory registration process as a time-wasting obstacle to buying.
  • Be clear about your returns policy. Do you offer a money-back guarantee? If the shopper buys online, can they exchange the item at a store and/or via post? Who pays return shipping?
  • Leverage shoppers’ herd mentality with ‘live purchase’ feeds, for example, “Samantha from Sydney just bought a queen mattress”. This also introduces visitors to different products.

An example of a best practice online store is The Iconic. It has fast shipping, 30-day free returns, impressive offers, sign-up incentives, an app, and ‘buy now, pay later’ options. The products have detailed descriptions, three to five large, clear product images, and a checkout timeline. The site also tailors what it displays to be relevant to each customer’s requirements.

Establish a good reputation

Consumers are more likely to feel confident shopping with a retailer if they have a good reputation. This may be easy to achieve if you’re an established brand with physical stores, but it must translate into the online space. A reputable physical store that gives shoppers a bad online experience is a bad online store.

Reviews and testimonials are a good way to enhance your reputation. It can be difficult to get your first ratings so consider incentivising these with a gift, discount or voucher on the shopper’s next purchase. Don’t delete bad reviews; instead publicly seek to remedy the issue. Potential buyers are reassured by active customer service.

Leverage your point of difference

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, it depends on what you’re selling as to whether someone is likely to research and/or buy from you online or in-store. More than two-thirds of customers in the market for books, music and movies will do research online versus just 16 per cent in-store, and 60 per cent will make an online purchase. Compare that to the grocery segment where 53 per cent of shoppers prefer to research and 70 per cent prefer to buy in-store.

This means you need to focus on products and services you know sell well or are searched for, and home in on shopping behaviour to make your marketing more targeted. For example, if you know the best-selling products at different store locations, you can geo-target your AdWords to highly rank different products for different locations, or you can offer a special deal or service to incentivise an in-store purchase.

Physical retailers will never win a price war with pure-play online retailers, so to attract omni-shoppers you need to give them a reason to come into the store. If you know shoppers to prefer to purchase in-store, offer service as a differentiating factor rather than trying to compete on price.

Rank well on searches

Pay attention to where you appear on search engine results for your business’ keywords. If a customer is in your store comparing something in front of them to other potential purchases, having your item highly ranked supports a decision to buy from you.

Improve your ranking by having an active blog on your site. You can offer product reviews and advice that incorporates keywords. For example, offer styling tips for your clothing or landscaping time savers for your gardening product. This improves your SEO and improves brand loyalty because you are offering more than just products to buy—you are providing helpful and interesting information.

Reach customers through multiple channels

Many retailers make the mistake of becoming two businesses, one with a physical store and one online, but omni-shoppers don’t see the difference—they want a multi-channel brand experience. Integrate key touchpoints—such as social media, guest blog posts on your website, ‘as seen in’ media mentions—so customers attain a strong sense of your brand however they choose to engage.

Be careful with elements like shipping. Nearly half of customers abandon online shopping carts due to shipping costs, so if you can keep this amount low, shoppers are more likely to complete the sale. Alternatively, offer free shipping when customers order over a certain amount, which helps with conversion rates and can also boost the average spend per transaction.

Retailers with physical stores also have the option of offering pick-up from stores, another opportunity to engage a customer. Consider the power of remarketing by leveraging incentives to encourage people to come back to your store.

Reward loyalty

If you offer omni-shoppers a good experience in-store and online they’ll become advocates for your brand. Strengthen this relationship by rewarding their loyalty through a formal program across all your sales channels. Eighty-three per cent of consumers are more likely to do repeat business with a brand if offered a loyalty program.

Consider the best structure for an omni-shopper loyalty program—it might be a points-based system where for every dollar they spend online or in-store they gain a certain number of points that can be converted into gifts, discounts or vouchers.

You can also integrate other touchpoints. For example, if a customer writes a review or shares their shopping experience via social media they receive a certain number of points, or if they recommend your product to a friend and the friend makes a purchase, they both receive a discount or a reward. This creates a positive loop of loyal customers who become advocates, which helps spread the word.

A brand that does this particularly well is beauty retailer Mecca. Every spend both in-store and online qualifies the customer for certain rewards. It also encourages loyalty through birthday gifts, quarterly sample kits, ‘Insider Access’ offers, and invitations to launch events.

Far from being fickle buyers, omni-shoppers show how multiple channels can provide new opportunities for retailers if they get it right. After all, the whole brand experience is more than the sum of its parts.

Sabri Suby is the founder and head of growth at full-service digital marketing agency King Kong.


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