You Can’t Hide from Digital In Store. Now What?

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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 not hide from it? Is digital in store even a good move?

Here’s a 4-step technique to help with figuring out your best next move with digital in store. As you go through these questions, hopefully you’ll start to see a clear plan-of-action map out right before you.

1) What’s the role of digital in my consumers’ path to purchase—pre, during and post the store visit?

84 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 excites them, i.e. their path to purchase.

Mobile research can be a great tool 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. And, couple that with in-store analytics and you’ll have a constant pulse on your consumers so you can always stay one step ahead of the curve. You’ll learn:

  • What your customers do—Where did they go once they entered the store? How did they interact with your product(s)? How long did they stay there? What demographic group did they belong to? What did and didn’t they respond to? What were their pain points?
  • 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 when they received product information from the display or were they frustrated with product information offered by the sales associate?
  • The thing is, digital in store can be a powerful source for attracting, engaging and converting consumers in store, if done well. However, if digital elements are thrown into the store with no logic or basis in consumer insights this digital in-store experience can distract or frustrate rather than bring value to the consumer or guide them on their path to purchase.

    2) How can digital in store best play in a consumer-ruled world?

    70 percent of customers are now leading their own customer journeys outside of brand/retailer advertising (Deloitte).

    Once you understand your consumer’s path to purchase, it’s critical to determine what points will best influence your consumers along their path to purchase. Otherwise you may just be throwing away your investments. Based on these “points of influence”, what excites/engages the consumer with your brand in store? Understanding how you influence consumers in store, with their proven path to purchase, provides you with a roadmap to in-store success. With all these insights in-hand, you can design experiences that “speak” to the individual consumer. For example, perhaps you can customize and dynamically deliver content either on digital displays or via mobile that is of interest to that individual?

    For each touchpoint, evaluate if this can be a point of influence for your brand or store. This doesn’t have to be a direct point of influence, i.e. advertising or the in-store brand experience, it can be indirect, i.e. social media or reviews and have a greater influence on the consumer. Evaluating your strategy in terms of the entire journey will have a tremendous impact, and if you’ve decided to go digital, it will show you how you can best use digital to influence your consumers.

    3) Could personalized content, using digital, improve my consumers’ in-store experience?

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

    Study after study, report after report, the research all shows that consumers want a personalized in-store experience. Fortunately, thanks to mobile devices and developments in proximity marketing technologies such as beacons, you now have all the tools to give consumers this kind of tailored experience in-store. And, thanks to a suite of other technologies including digital screens, RFID and NFC, to name a few, you also have the ability to give consumers unique, engaging experiences that drive not only sales, but loyalty.

    The reality is, while it’s been an ongoing struggle for marketers to keep stores relevant in the eyes of the consumer with all the channels now at their disposal, online isn’t going anywhere. But, neither is the physical store, given it’s position as the shopping destination of choice, controlling over 90 percent of all U.S. retail sales. The truth is, digital isn’t the enemy; it can actually be an opportunity to offer a consistent online/offline experience across channels and devices and shrink the gap between you and your consumers.

    4) Am I meeting consumers’ mobile expectations in store?

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

    Consumers are rarely, if ever, 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 customers are looking up price comparisons, pulling product reviews, searching social sites and more. This is a prime opportunity for you to provide useful apps and mobile specific websites to answer your customer’s questions and take some control of how they experience your brand.

    As marketers, we need to prepare for and think about the short-term and long-term of retail. The reality is, digital isn’t going anywhere, and in my opinion it isn’t driving consumers away from stores. What drives consumers away is a poor understanding of their path to purchase, and a resulting poor experience. If used correctly, digital in store can actually bridge the growing gap between consumers and stores. Tomorrow’s retail winners will be those who learn to take advantage of this opportunity.
    Image Copyright: fotogestoeber / 123RF Stock Photo

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