Online and in-store shopping are often seen as rivals, competing for customer attention and spend. But the tide is turning. The future of successful retail lies in the two working together, to create a complete, ‘omnichannel’ customer experience. And although that might sound like just the latest buzzword, it’s actually pretty common-sense.
This was the focus of our latest Retailer Meet-up series, where our very own Head of Brand and Auckland fashion retailer Simon Pound gave local retailers the low-down on using online tools to grow their brick & mortar stores.
“Customers don’t see any difference between your online presence and your physical store. They expect the same level of service, the same brand feel, and the same shopping experience from you no matter what. It’s all about creating a unifying experience across all your sales and promotional channels,” says Simon.
Online doesn’t have to be at the expense of brick & mortar retail. Check out Simon’s tips below:
1. Start thinking like your consumer. The first place a customer now goes to shop and look for something new is not the high street, it is the internet. Are you where they are? The best way to find out is to ask them. This is particularly easy for smaller retail store owners who interact with their customers daily. What kind of online platforms do they use? Would they appreciate advice and tips, or perhaps they want exclusive previews of new products? Once you identify how your customers like to shop, where they look for new things and the experiences they enjoy, you can work to make it happen.
2. Ramp up your social channels and photography skills. Social channels, particularly Instagram are becoming more and more influential in generating sales for retailers. And this is all about great imagery. Build a small photography studio in your office with a white board and good lighting so you can constantly create new content to share online – Crane Brothers, for example, have been doing with great success. If you’re not confident with taking photos, go on a basics in photography course, or enlist a talented staff member to help. Use images to create interest in items that are available to buy immediately and then send people somewhere they can buy it from you. For example, stagger new product ranges and announce ‘new in-store’ items on social media weekly, or even daily, and mention the other colours available in store. Two great tools for this are Flipagram, where you can to create short videos using photos and post to Instagram, and Soldsie, that allows people to buy directly from your Instagram simply by commenting.
3. Get on the map. Make sure your business is easily found on online channels. An internet search is what modern shoppers turn to, in order to find products and stores. The best way to do this is to add your company details and website information to Google My Business – it’s free and is the first thing people will see when they search for you online. Also be sure to add your address and contact number to your company description on your Instagram and other social media accounts. This will show online and mobile users that you have a physical footprint and encourage people to check out the store in-person.
4. Location, location, location. Think of your online presence just like you would your physical store: it pays to spend more to rent a space in a good location where potential customers shop, than being off the beaten track. Online is just the same. Investing in online marketing and SEO is like rent, on the internet. Look into inexpensive ways to advertise online that you can manage yourself, such as using Google AdWords or Adroll for ‘retargeting’ – advertising special offers or new products to consumers as they browse across different sites – to drive them to your online store. Or if you need some help getting started, find a geek to help you. There are lots of experts out there who can help set a strategy to suit your needs – just be aware that where there’s mystery there’s margin. Be sure to start your conversations with them with a firm budget and goal in mind to avoid paying for more than you’d intended.
5. Invest in good content. Create interesting and well-designed electronic direct mails (EDMs) to your customer base. But make sure these emails always provide value – they must compel people to open the message and take action. Include a strong offer, great images, or exclusive deals and previews. You’ll build a loyal following of repeat customers, and can use it to drive traffic into your store. Don’t be afraid to do offers, these are the reward for being a subscriber and getting another email in their inbox.
Retailer spotlight: Glamour Boutique
Auckland fashion store Glamour Boutique has created another clever way to bring online and in-store together – they provide a FaceTime service for customers. With computers set-up in their store, their staff can chat with customers outside of Auckland face-to-face, show them the latest arrivals, and give them a special and personalised shopping experience.
“Our customers love being able to FaceTime with us. We’ve got a few customers who are based in Whangarei and other areas out of Auckland and so they often purchase from us online. By giving them that in-store experience over the internet, we can make their online shopping process much more personal and enjoyable, and we’re seeing an amazing increase in our sales and repeat business because of this,” says Charone Mackessack, Managing Director of Glamour Boutique.
These tips and more were shared by at our recent Retailer Meet-up series on omnichannel retailing. These monthly Meet-ups are free to attend and bring together local retailers to discuss industry issues, developments, tips and tricks, in an informal setting. We’d love to have you along to the next one! Find out more here.