It is not surprising that an increasing number of customers—nearly 80%, according to a recent study by Pew Research—begin their product search and selection online. More than half of those surveyed have purchased something using their mobile phones. The main reasons for this surge are convenience and the ability to easily compare product features and cost. However, without these benefits, nearly two-thirds of respondents would prefer to shop in a brick-and-mortar store.
So, how can you give your customers the best of both worlds? Here at inRiver, we have a few ideas.
Create Endless Aisles
To allow brick-and-mortar shoppers some of the benefits of online shopping, take a page from the digital playbook. Some successful retailers are using information from online channels in their offline marketing and in-store displays, such as presenting Amazon reviews or product ratings on the shelf under the product. Other stores are providing tablets and laptops to allow customers to compare products, view online-only product selections, and check prices.
If a product is out of stock in the store, “endless aisle” technology enables customers to complete an online order quickly while standing next to the shelf. Integrated IT systems mean that customers can return online orders in-store instead of having to mail them back and wait for a replacement or refund.
However, the key to ensuring consistency across these channels in uniformity, accuracy, and completeness in your product information.
Enrich the In-store Experience
There are various ways to use online interactions across the customer journey to drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. Store locators, product reservation tools, and click-and-collect options all boost revenue because they help online customers leverage the benefits of the in-store experience.
For a customer who wants to try on a pair of shoes or test an electronic device before purchasing, it is likely that they will visit a local store. And if the product information that they reviewed online becomes a reality in the in-person interaction, you may have won a new customer!
Recognize Your Customers
Many merchants have the goal of not only recognizing customers throughout the buyer journey, but also personalizing, and thereby enhancing, the customer experience. However, it is necessary to first recognize buyers as they visit your store or site.
There are a number of traditional and “low-tech” methods of identifying customers, as well as many innovative and automated methods. For example, cookies embedded in the browser of website visitors “remember” selections made by the user and can attribute these movements back to returning visitors and to specific devices being used to surf the site.
Requesting that buyers opt-in to receive emails is a simple way of identifying existing customers and building a list of shoppers and customers. Recommending products based on previous purchases shows customers that you are paying attention to their preferences. In addition, developing a mobile app or online survey can provide a great deal of data about customers.
Providing in-store WiFi and requiring shoppers to sign in with identifying information is one way to collect information for identifying in-store customers and prospects. With the increasing use of social media and digital payment methods, more data can continue to be collected—adding context and enrichment to both personas and to individual customer profiles.
Once you are able to recognize your customers, you can offer more relevant and contextual content that suits their needs. And if your product information is enriched and accurate, you can upsell and cross-sell more effectively, enhancing each individual’s customized experience.
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver
It is widely known and understood that prospects and customers begin their online product search on a search engine or on Amazon. In fact, according to a survey by PowerReviews 35% of customers begin their search on Google and 38% on Amazon.
Customers are looking for convenience when considering a purchase. Most prefer to search online rather than talking to one of your sales reps or walking into a store. Depending on the industry, as many as 80% of customers have researched their product purchase online before they even talk to you.
To take advantage of these growing customer habits, you must ensure that your products are findable through online search engines. Here are three tips to help make that happen.
When a prospect enters key words into the search field in Google or Amazon or another vendor site, how will they know that the best results will be presented? What can be very frustrating for the prospect, and a lost customer for you, is when no suitable results are presented. What the user will see will be the results crafted by the best search engine optimizers, pay-per-click managers, and feature advertisers. What the user is not necessarily seeing are the results that meet their needs.
We understand that search engine ranking is important, but consider this: What it you reallocated some of the resources spent on SEO or PPC advertising and used it for producing and displaying great content? What if you really let your products tell their stories? Not only would you be rewarded by Google’s website crawlers organically for having great content, but also your potential customers would find your products more easily and buy from you. In addition, as you review key word usage on your site, you will be able to more appropriately refine your key word selection through a feedback loop to reflect the words that your customers use to find products on your site. Read more on this topic.
Once a potential customer has found your site, you want them to be able to find suitable products within your assortment quickly and easily. By setting up a great taxonomy within inRiver, your products and associated attributes will be organized and properly classified, assisting users in being able to efficiently search and filter for the SKU that best meets their needs.
Read more on taxonomy and how it benefits your downstream channels in this blog by our partner, Earley Information Science.
Product Up-sell and Cross-sell
One way your business adds value is by helping customers make informed purchasing decisions. This does not just apply to the way you promote single products ― it also applies to the way you cross-sell and up-sell.
When you have high-quality information—categorized and tagged appropriately—it is easy to show customers how to combine complementary products. You gain a competitive advantage and increase revenue because you give your customers an in-depth understanding of the product and guide them toward the ideal solution for their needs.
When you deploy inRiver Product Marketing Cloud, you are able to quickly and easily create product assortments and relationships—in the manner of a “look book” for retailers or “additional parts and services” for B2B vendors. Contact us for a demo!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver
Not long ago, a major focus of marketers was on brand—brand loyalty, brand positioning, the “brand promise.” Numerous books were written on the subject—each claiming to be the “brand bible” for communicating effectively to target markets.
We would argue that brand loyalty and the importance of brand, in general, is diminishing. According to McKinsey Research only 13% of customers are “loyalists” who do not shop around.
Sure, there are Apple aficionados who will never buy a Windows PC. There are folks who continue to drive the same brand of car for decades. And there are businesses with brand preferences due to corporate policy or hardware and software compatibility challenges. However, with the ubiquity of online shopping and buying, brand-based selection is falling, time and again, by the wayside.
Why is this?
When seeking a new product—especially a product with which a buyer has had little previous experience—buyers most often rely on the opinions of family and friends, or complete strangers. In fact, in one study by Signpost, they found that 90% of people consult online reviews when making purchase decisions. With the anonymity afforded by the Internet, purchasers of a product can be completely frank about their opinions and experiences with a product. As a result, buyers frequently trust those opinions more than corporate advertising or “brand communications.”
Not only is UGC an influential factor, but so are third-party reviews. How frequently do you make a major product purchase without consulting Consumer Reports, Edmunds, CNET, or the like? Buyers are relying more and more on the expert evaluations of third-party reviewers for three main reasons: 1) they can be accessed from our desk or mobile phone; and 2) these folks do this for a living and are experts; and 3) it speeds our research and decision processes.
What is also common is for buyers to be surprised by what they read. According to the same McKinsey Research study, nearly 60% of customers switched brands once they began “shopping around.”
Ability to Compare Products
Now that consumers and business buyers can easily shop around and compare products—on price, features, and form factor—at the click of a button, they are not restricted by brand. Online users can find the product that most closely meets their needs—whether the purchase transaction occurs online or in-store. Again, this may mean that they consider or purchase a brand that was not originally top of mind. However, after validating their purchase through user and third-party reviews, this previously unknown brand or product may indeed end up the winner!
What Can You Do?
As a manufacturer or distributor, the most impactful thing that you can do is portray your individual products in the best possible light. If you are no longer able to attract customers based solely on your brand, then you need your products to be able to speak for themselves and tell their own unique stories. This requires compelling, well-crafted product descriptions, accurate and interesting imagery, and insightful product testimonials and reviews. Let inRiver and our extensive PRIME Partner Community help!
Kathryn Zwack, Sr. Content Marketing Manager, inRiver