Continuing the in-store conversation online

The need to develop a solid cross-channel marketing strategy encompassing email, mobile and social has become a priority for online marketers. Efforts are made to connect the dots between online channels to keep customers engaged throughout the customer lifecycle. Emails include social sharing links, Facebook pages containing email opt-in forms, and customers having the option to sign up to receive mobile messages during the checkout process.

While these tactics encourage customer engagement online, it is important to also include bricks-and-mortar locations in the on-going consumer dialogue to keep them engaged throughout the entire purchase process. This article discusess a recent Bronto report which details how retail locations are promoting online channels. In our research, a store scorecard was developed to record the various ways online channels were promoted in-store.

In the total sample of 131 retail locations, the most frequently marketed channel promoted in-store was the website with 76 stores, or 58% of the sample, messaging it somewhere within the store experience. The store front window was the most common location to promote the website. Interestingly, QR codes – which are a relatively new and an often polarising marketing tactic – came in second with 27 stores (21%) featuring codes linking to a variety of content including videos, subscription forms, and product information. Promoting social media interaction came in third with 21 stores (16%) including some form of social network mention.

Multichannel merchants often struggle with how to cross-promote their channels.

Surprisingly, referencing a brand’s email programme, one of the stickiest forms of customer engagement, came in fourth with only 15 stores (11%) informing customers that they can receive emails. The final finisher was SMS with only 11 stores (8%) asking customers to text a shortcode.

I spoke with many cashiers about their process for collecting email addresses at the till and found that most prefer to avoid the question even if they are required by the company to ask the customer. They said that customers feel that it is “intrusive” and “awkward” and makes the cashier feel “uncomfortable.”

Since almost all of the stores collecting email addresses are doing so at the register, the need for educating cashiers on how to communicate the value of joining an email programme along with supplemental signage is evident. Some brands have avoided this issue by inserting a prompt in credit card scanners that will display a few key bullet points about the email programme and ask if they would like to join.

Of the 15 stores promoting their email programme in-store, only one featured email messaging in a location anywhere other than the till. Considering the low percentage of stores actually promoting their email programmes in-store, it is surprising that those who are promoting it are isolating their marketing efforts to the register. Email programmes could be promoted throughout the store location even if the actual acquisition occurs at the till.

QR codes were used throughout stores, especially in the browsing areas, and saw the second most evenly distributed usage next to website promotion. Placement in the store windows represented 37% of all QR codes, linking to a variety of content.

SMS was the least frequently promoted channel for linking customers in-store to an online experience. 55% of all SMS messaging was found at the till. Considering stores are always concerned about wait times at the till, it’s surprising that a call-to-action requiring a customer to take out their mobile phone, go to their texting programme, and enter the keyword and shortcode, would be the most common at this location.

Promoting social networks was seen in all store locations. At 38%, entry signage was the most common location to encourage shoppers to interact with a brand’s social media presence in some form. Stating the value or purpose of visiting a brand’s social presence could help drive more visits.

Promoting a brand’s website was by far the most frequently used method to market an online presence but lacked a strong marketing message in most cases. The other channels introduce an idea of future communication (Sign up for Emails, Follow us on Twitter) where most website references were more of a branding play.

Multichannel merchants often struggle with how to cross-promote their channels. These days, it is a more important concern than ever due to the nature of the digitally-connected consumer. Most shoppers tend to shop online and offline. And when they are shopping in a retail location they often utilise online resources, sometimes even whilst they are still in the store.

At the very least, stores need to promote their online channels in their stores. If they don’t, the digital consumers will visit someone else’s website, review sources or product info pages while shopping, and potentially leave the store location for a cheaper price online. Beyond this, cross-promotion between online and offline resources helps to connect the dots and maintain an ongoing dialogue with consumers throughout the customer lifecycle.

Fundamentally, whilst many stores are at least doing some basic promotion of online channels, many are either not doing it at all or are making minimal effort. There is a lot of room for improvement to keep consumers engaged with your brand instead of letting them wander into another store, either physically or virtually.

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Categories: Retail


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