For years, brick-and-mortar stores have fallen under the shadow of the web. Online price checks, reviews, and discounts enable buyers to feel more confident in their purchasing decisions online than offline, and eliminate the need for in-person buying.
Now, mobile has become one of the most effective and widely adopted forms of communication across all audiences. Mobile acts as the tie that binds web and in-store consumer behavior, allowing your brand to capitalize on both driving purchases and adding value to the brick-and-mortar store experience. And according to eMarketer, a whopping 74% of purchases researched on mobile devices are completed in-store, so it’s not a medium brands can ignore any longer.
When you can create a seamless, omnichannel strategy, the different means of consumer interaction and purchases coalesce into one (nearly invisible) shopping experience. Incentivizing in-store mobile usage prompts purchases and loyalty, especially when your consumers feel you’re providing benefit to them, not just trying to make money.
At this point, your brick-and-mortar stores need a mobile strategy; here, we’ve outlined the “whys,” and also provided some of the ways you can harness mobile to drive customer loyalty and revenue.
Localytics CEO Raj Aggarwal recently published a piece on the appification of the web, arguing that websites as they have been in the past are becoming obsolete, and are evolving to be more like apps. And the truth is, even mobile-optimized websites aren’t enough to meet the needs of today’s consumers.
Buyers now need something faster, more responsive, and highly targeted in order to access the kind of information they want while in-store. Mobile apps allow for more efficient interactions than websites, including local-specific actions and offers, and create engagement options like check-ins, likes, and other social interactions. These programs are proactive in assisting and encouraging consumers, and allow them to do more in-store than they could through a basic online search.
Optimizing for local mobile searches is still a priority, but this strategy doesn’t address additional behavior beyond locating a store. Consumer mobile check-ins via Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms provide you with immediate data as to who is at your store, and perhaps even what they are doing or what they are looking for. They also boost your credibility as personal online endorsements. You can reward these endorsements by providing offers for continued check-ins, or providing location-specific recommendations. Foursquare, for example, allows users to leave tips at particular locations, especially restaurants (we dive into more details on running location-based campaigns here).
Keep an eye on the consumers that post a product to Facebook, like your page, or are interacting with you in some social manner. To engage them offline, for example, you can target consumers on Facebook and drive them to a mobile-specific experience that provides them with an in-store coupon they can store in Passbook. Social media buying can be assisted through apps to work as in-store offers, and not only identifies socially engaged consumers, but also adds clear benefit to being a socially engaged consumer.
Showrooming occurs when a consumer finds something in-store and then researches options and purchases online at a lower price. And unfortunately, it happens all the time.
Mobile can help provide incentives and encourage your consumers to shop with you, providing a positive experience that outweighs the benefits of spending the additional time online to score a deal.
Negate the need to search online for deals by offering the same discounts in-store as you do online. Just be sure to use a backing mobile strategy. Instead of offering the same storewide sale (which won’t effect offline or online purchasing differently), benefit users of your mobile app with a coupon or discount code for being a user or as part of an app messaging campaign. Engaging these buyers via mobile allows you to collect and retain information on them, assess their loyalty, streamline future purchases, and enable easy in-store buying.
Another brick-and-mortar bottleneck is the inability to find a certain product, perhaps in a certain size, for a certain price, and in a certain location. Who wants to physically visit different stores on the off chance of finding that one item, when you can simply click “Buy” online? One great way to avoid this is by serving up store data on mobile. Ikea, for example, provides customers with an in-store companion app that shows where a product is in the store, how to find it, and if it’s in stock. Another option is a self-serve kiosk that points customers to products online to confirm that in-store prices are the same or less. Eliminating the time and guesswork associated with in-store browsing and creating a streamlined experience makes the process more desirable.
Take this example: a consumer downloads a store’s app, opens it upon arriving in-store and checks in, and a store associate comes to assist him based on items in his wish list or from his product view history. Seem extreme? This kind of personalized customer service is actually helping to significantly grow revenue and customer satisfaction for Fortune 500 companies like the Home Depot. And while it might sound overwhelming, the truth is, consumers are looking to get the best deal in the most efficient manner possible.
As we’ve covered, most people will research and review products online before purchasing in-store, and don’t want to start the process over in person. Digitally enabling your associates to eliminate common in-store bottlenecks creates dramatically better customer service. It doesn’t have to be as targeted as the above example, but just outfitting your team with tablets or smartphones so that they can easily assist buyers is a major step forward.
Why are personal shoppers often considered the height of in-store elegance? Because it feels good to have dedicated, personalized help. Using a branded mobile app, you can track what each consumer is interested in and be on the ready for in-store visits. This extra mile of consideration goes a long way in improving the brick-and-mortar store experience, and shows your buyers that their time is of utmost importance. It also allows you to prevent frustrated consumers from walking out empty-handed, losing you the sale and perpetuating negative sentiment.
Online consumers are only going to continue to use review sites like Yelp, sometimes to the dismay of business owners. By offering your own surveys after in-store visits, you can structure the review around what you really need to know, offer benefits to those who filled out the survey, and keep customer service top-of-mind. Mobile surveys are the easiest, most convenient way to engage consumers once right after they’ve purchased, and can prompt further mobile app engagement after survey completion.
For small businesses not in the eCommerce space, there are ways to apply mobile for better results. Service-based businesses that operate on an appointment schedule can reduce no-shows and eliminate confusion by sending SMS or app-based messages reminding clients of set appointments. Small reminders go a long way in mobile, as most people keep their smartphones on them throughout the day. Setting up a scalable way to send these reminders saves time and money from missed appointments.
This goes beyond offering the same coupon to all mobile users, and treads into the realm of audience segmentation and personalization. It also means rewarding ongoing loyalty, and providing an easy way to purchase over time with the right mobile setup.
Offer rewards programs or discounts based on sharing, forwarding to friends, and engaging via mobile to show your “super fans” that you recognize and appreciate their loyalty. These offers can be triggered by a certain action, or enacted in your brand’s app with push or in-app marketing campaigns. Running app campaigns allows you to segment users by their purchasing behavior, demographic, interest, device and more, and target the right offers to the right segments. You can also A/B test campaigns to create smarter, more successful marketing to app users.
Digital “wallets” like Google Wallet can utilize near field communication to store things like credit cards, gift cards, and sales promotions. Make sure to honor and have the technology ready to accept these forms of payment. Some big brands have built-in rewards programs in their own apps, like Starbucks and Target, which make in-store purchases easier and automatically beneficial to long-term savings (plus, they boost loyalty).
With all of these options available, and more possible with a little creativity, mobile might seem truly massive. But really, the best way to go about defining your mobile strategy is to first define your goals. What are the two or three most important things mobile can do to boost your brick-and-mortar experience? Tackle those. If you already have your own app and don’t know where to go from there, start by measuring everything to evaluate who your audience is and how they are already interacting with you. This will be the basis on which you build out according to what your consumers want.
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