Is Digital In-Store the Right Fit? 5 Questions to Ask

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Nov 20 2015, Posted by Lisa Cramer

By the end of 2015, digital interactions will influence 64 cents of every dollar spent in retail stores, according to Deloitte. That’s an impact of $2.2 trillion. As marketers, that raises some concern. How can we take advantage of this trend inside brick-and-mortar? And, is digital in-store even a good move?

After years of conversations with brands struggling to figure out whether digital in-store might be the right fit for them, I’ve put together a list of my 5 top questions to ask to help you hone in on your best next move. Here goes…

    1. How are consumers currently interacting with your brand throughout their path to purchase—pre, during and post the store visit? And, what role of, if any, is digital already playing in your consumers’ path to purchase?

80 percent of customers use digital tools before and during their trips to a store (Deloitte).

We all know that today’s consumers expect a seamless experience. That includes how they move from online to physical retail. Stepping into a store shouldn’t mean a myriad of detours and games of hide and seek—it should simply pick up where the consumer left off. But, digital isn’t always the right answer for this. To move forward, first you’ll need to figure out how your consumers purchase and what influences them, i.e. their path to purchase.

Mobile research can be a great resource here. It will give you incredible insights into how to maximize ROI on in-store investments, and where, if at all, digital might be a good fit. You’ll learn:

      • What your customers do—Where did they go once they entered the store? How did they interact with your product(s)? Did mobile come into play? What demographic group did they belong to? What did and didn’t they respond to?
      • Why your customers do what they do—What motivated them to exhibit the behaviors they did, and ultimately purchase the brand they did? What did they consider before even coming into the store? How did they feel about your brand versus competitors? How did they use digital tools throughout their path to purchase?
      • How do your customers feel—As your customers moved through their path to purchase, what were their emotions? Were they happy? Were they frustrated? What were their pain points?

Once you understand your consumer’s path to purchase, it’s critical to pull out their pain points along their path, as well as which interactions best influenced them (digital and otherwise). This will be your roadmap to success—you should immediately see where digital could have the most impact for your brand.

    1. Is there additional value that digital integrations in-store could bring that might be worth exploring?

85 percent of customers would be more likely to shop in stores that offer personalized coupons and exclusive offers provided in-store (Google).

The keyword here is value. But, what defines that here? By value, I mean it should serve one (or more) of these purposes:

      • Enables easy access to more information, reviews, alternatives, price comparisons, inventory levels, or complimentary item recommendations based on a selected product
      • Triggers inspirational/support/DIY content on how to use or install a more complex product appropriately once at home or use it as intended to achieve some vision
      • Helps to locate a specific product, maybe seen online or somewhere else, quickly in-store
      • Provides personalized messages, product recommendations, coupons, promotions, etc. based on location or shopper profile
      • Connects to social media to share opinions or get opinions on a particular product or brand
      • Provides some form of engagement/entertainment or access to unique rewards, offers, events, or gifts
      • Improves store operations—for example inventory management
      • Improves the “try before you buy” experience—for example, smart fitting rooms
      • Simplifies the check out/delivery process
      • Improves the post-purchase experience—for example, return or other customer service issues

Hopefully as you went through this list, you began to see how you could effectively transform your path to purchase insights into various solutions. Perhaps some are digital, but perhaps some aren’t. The key is to choose digital solutions based on their ability to best solve the problem at hand for your consumers.

    1. Are you meeting consumers’ mobile expectations in-store?

75 percent of consumers use mobile while shopping in-store (InReality)

Today’s modern consumers are rarely separated from their mobile devices. As such, you need to make sure that you are ready for their instinctive mobile habits once in-store. These consumers are looking up price comparisons, pulling product reviews, searching social sites and more. This could be a prime opportunity for you to provide useful apps and mobile specific websites to answer their questions, deliver relevant content and take some control of how they experience your brand. The key is to use insights from your path to purchase analysis to see how mobile could best benefit your consumers.

    1. Could digital help you optimize your in-store footprint?

Digital integrations can be a great way to show the breadth of a product line or convey a lot of information in a small space. Digital in-store kiosks/ displays, for example, can be used to convey valuable information specific to the product being considered, and also specific to the individual customer and their needs based on where they might be in their path to purchase, i.e. researching features, considering alternatives, comparing prices, etc. At the same time, they can easily show the same selection you have online, while minimizing inventory needed on hand. Plus, you’ll also be able to:

      • Provide engagement for the customer (increasing dwell time)
      • Get analytics of what messages/campaigns customers are engaging with and what isn’t working
    1. Could your brand benefit from in-store analytics?

We brushed on in-store analytics briefly above, but there’s more than just content analytics to consider here. Thanks to advances in in-store digital technologies, it is actually possible—right now—to:

      • Gather traffic, demographic and engagement consumer metrics with a particular brand in-store
      • Remotely trigger content updates across digital screens or displays—segmented by date, time, locations, store promotions, and even demographics
      • Optimize in-store campaigns with A/B and cohort testing, just as you do online

Essentially, the black hole for analytics that was once the store can become a source for rich consumer insights, increased ability to target, acquire, and engage consumers, and a new watering hole for testing, content marketing. Are these things your brand could benefit from?

As marketers, we need to prepare for the short-term and long-term of retail. The reality is, digital isn’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we need to adopt it everywhere for fear of losing customers. Lack of digital doesn’t drive consumers away; it’s a poor understanding of their path to purchase, and a resulting poor experience that does that. That said, it’s important to remember that digital isn’t always the right solution. Great in-store solutions come in all shapes and sizes. And while digital in-store can be a powerful source for attracting, engaging and converting consumers in-store, that’s only if it’s done right.

Image Copyright: fotogestoeber / 123RF Stock Photo

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