From Intent To Action: Turning Online Browsing Into Retail Sales

As a retailer, it’s easy to get excited about e-commerce when you read a statistic like “79 percent of smartphone owners use their phones for shopping-related activities.” That’s more than 142 million people in the United States alone!

But while these statistics clearly show a rise in mobile purchase activity, there’s an important fact we often seem to ignore: According to the same study, 73 percent of the time, these shoppers are looking for a store location.

In fact, 90 percent of retail sales happen offline, and the majority of retailers still see most of their profits coming from purchases made at brick-and-mortar locations.

The key to making the most of this data is in the details. Why do customers prefer to shop in person, and how can marketers bridge the gap between online and offline shopping to convert more browsers into buyers?

Despite the convenience of mobile shopping, there’s still an allure to shopping in a real store for most customers. It’s much more enjoyable to spend a day shopping with your girl/boy-friends than surfing alone on your lunch break. In a physical retail location, customers get a complete sensory experience they can’t get online: the weight of a frying pan, the heft of a blouse, the luxurious fragrance of cologne — something that popular brands are recognizing. Previously online-only retailers, such as Bonobos and Warby Parker, have even responded by opening brick-and-mortar stores.

There’s also the appeal of immediate gratification: see it, feel it, take it home. The retail shopping experience is immersive, filled with sights, sounds, smells, and things you can touch, declare your own, and bring home right away. Customers also save time and get exactly what they want the first time by being able to try items on and see colors and textures in person.

Why Retailers Should Want Customers to Buy in Person

While pushing customers from your mobile site to your retail location may seem counterintuitive, conversion rates are higher for in-person shopping. It’s much more difficult to convert online shoppers into purchasers because it’s hard to tell which ones are just browsing, which ones are researching a future
purchase, and which ones are ready to buy. The best e-commerce conversion rates average 4 percent, and that’s with 50 percent of shoppers abandoning their shopping cart.

If it’s hard to imagine the retail equivalent, that’s because if half the shoppers abandoned their baskets in the middle of a physical store, you’d think there had been some sort of natural disaster!

Once you get a customer into a store, you’ve got a much better chance of a sale because you avoid the problems unique to e-commerce: the hassle of returns, the difficulty in judging proper fit, and the lack of instant gratification.

How to Connect Your Online Shoppers with Your Retail Location

How do you encourage your customers to come into a physical store to make a purchase? Here are six tips for converting online window shoppers into paying customers in the store:

1. Make it easy to find your information

Make the most of your mobile website by clearly displaying your store hours, directions, and local phone number.

2. Use trade and shopper marketing

When customers look online to see what you’re offering, advertise the availability of pertinent brands that are in stock. Target uses HookLogic to allow brands to advertise on its e-commerce site, extending those brands’ marketing to special offers and highlighting product availability.

3. Create special in-store incentives and events

A phenomenal example of this practice is Lululemon’s efforts to popularize in-store incentives and make physical stores gathering places for yoga events.

4. Use contextual offers to get online shoppers to purchase in retail locations

When customers are seeking location information, it’s easy to display special offers or coupons that shoppers can add to their Passbook or Google Wallet to redeem in the store, much like the partnership between American Express and Foursquare that facilitates check-in offers at particular locations to drive consumer visits.

5. Maximize convenience

Convenience means more than location. As a retailer, it’s your job to remove as many barriers to purchasing your product as possible. Neiman Marcus is leading the way by bringing its in-store inventory online and offering customers a “buy online, pick up in store” incentive.

6. Provide real-time integration with in-store inventory

Your mobile website should be a stage for your retail location that offers a preview of the main attraction and makes it easy for customers to go try something on, buy it, or even return it. J. Crew and American Eagle both have “buy online, return in store” policies, and one department store retailer found that customers spent an extra 18 percent on top of their original order when they were in the store returning the purchased product.

At the end of the day, your marketing strategy should be tailored to meet your customers’ needs. They don’t care whether they’re online, mobile, or multichannel customers. They just want to purchase your product in the way that’s most convenient for them at that moment. And the most effective marketing strategies are the ones that will allow you to convert your growing mobile traffic into real sales offline.

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