Continuing the Customer Conversation In-Store and Online

I’m growing tired of this question: How do I drive an in-store customer online and vice versa? It’s not a bad question, but I do feel that it is being asked in the wrong way. The question should be: How do I continue the customer’s experience with my brand between my store and site?

With consumers practically attached to mobile devices and beginning to accept marketing messages on Facebook and Twitter, marketing efforts are less about driving to a specific channel and more about having a promotional presence in all of them and keeping the person engaged throughout the customer lifecycle. The reasons for disengaging from a purchase decision are nearly infinite, and the means to disengage are just a few taps away on a smartphone.

So, how do you continue the customer experience between store and site? Let’s focus on the store shopper.

Social media calls-to-action
Creating sharable content should not stop with your web efforts. Encourage the shopper to share photos or product information to their networks. Post hashtags in the store that they can use, utilize QR codes to drive shoppers to a community page, or try a mobile keyword where a customer can text their photo to a gallery. These steps give retailers the opportunity to continue the conversation with shoppers, whether they make an in-store purchase or leave without buying. Either way, retailers who engage shoppers through in-store social media calls-to-action have the opportunity to continue the conversation and potentially upsell to those who already made a purchase, while also reeling those back in who expressed initial interest, but still haven’t been convinced to open their wallets.

QR codes with stickiness
QR codes typically function as an in-store version of the “learn more” links found on a site. This can be effective but can also encourage “showrooming.” Showrooming is when a customer goes online to research a product while in the store, locates a lower price online, and then leaves your store to buy elsewhere. If you’re using QR codes this way, you want to make sure the page that is displayed after a scan is sticky. Here are a few examples of sticky QR code approaches:

· Product Reviews: Don’t force your shopper to track down reviews on another site that may have a lower price. Have QR codes that link to product specific landing pages that include reviews and ratings that can help the shopper make a decision.

· Add to Cart: A large “add to cart” option can help what could be an in-store product abandonment to an online purchase by virtually bookmarking the product on the mobile device

In-store email subscription
Collecting email addresses at point-of-sale is extremely common. In an upcoming Bronto report analyzing how stores are marketing their online presence, we found that 62% of retailers are collecting email address at the register.

The methods of capturing new subscribers are all over the place. These processes range from a pen and paper to more advanced digital methods where the customer can type their email address before they swipe their card. Whatever approach you take, POS lists suffer from poor data quality which can lead to low email delivery rates, increased abuse complaints and potentially blocks with ISPs. Here are a few best practices for making your in-store customer a subscriber to your email program.

· Educate Your Staff: Many of the cashiers interviewed for our report said that they did not ask customers to opt-in for their email program even though the company requires them to ask the question during checkout. What could be an awkward request for data that a customer may not be comfortable providing could be softened by having your staff capable of communicating the value of joining the email program, such as rewards and loyalty programs. Staff should also be trained to quickly communicate what the customer can expect after they sign up in terms of email frequency and the types of emails they’ll be receiving.

· Provide Multiple Opportunities: While social and mobile channels were promoted throughout the store, email was almost always promoted exclusively at the register. Give your shoppers multiple opportunities to sign-up by including messaging throughout the store. This can be done by using QR codes that link to opt-in forms, SMS shortcodes that allow shoppers to opt-into your email program, or by promoting a short URL.

While having too many mentions of your online presence in your store location could distract from the shoppers’ in-store experience, ignoring the shifts in consumer shopping behavior and the ubiquity of smartphones can result in lost engagement and sales.

Jim Davidson is manager of marketing research for Bronto Software.

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