Over the past several years a dramatic shift has occurred in the way consumers shop – they’re increasingly turning to the Internet to research products before stepping into a retail store. In fact, Credit Suisse reports 87% of consumers now conduct product research online before purchasing in person. U.S. in-store retail sales influenced by online consumer research are expected to reach $1.1 trillion by 2012. That’s nearly half of total retail sales!
Not only is a well-planned and executed interactive marketing strategy critical to the success of any e-commerce website, it can also catapult in-store retail sales. Below are our top six interactive marketing tactics to implement into your marketing strategy.
1. Use email to deliver timely, personalized offers. It’s well known that at an average cost of about $0.01 per email sent and the immediacy in response rates, email is one of the most cost-effective and efficient marketing methods for retailers. But in addition to using email marketing to drive website traffic, it can also be an extremely effective method for driving in-store retail sales. As the holiday shopping season draws to a close, consumers become increasingly wary about making purchases online out of fear that their merchandise may not be shipped to them on time. This represents the perfect opportunity to step up emails for digital coupons and offers–valid for in-store purchases.
The effective use of email marketing to drive in-store sales however requires a well thought out action plan. The first step involves cultivating a highly targeted opt-in email list of shoppers. Then, highly engaging offers with clear calls-to-action (CTAs) need to be designed and routinely delivered. Email collateral should be consistent in messaging and design with your traditional advertisements and drive consumers to offer-specific landing pages or micro-sites or include promotion codes for in-store use so the performance of the offers can be accurately measured, reported and optimized.
2. Get found where consumers are searching. With nearly 9 out of 10 consumers researching products and future purchases online, effective search engine optimization (SEO) and social media optimization (SMO) of your website and retail store(s) is no longer optional – it’s now crucial. According to “The Compete Online Shopper Intelligence” study*, retail websites and search engines are the top two resources shoppers use to do their research, followed by retailer emails. The report found that 90% of consumers are utilizing search engines, 48% use online yellow pages and 42% are using comparison shopping engines to research purchases. Nearly 25% are using vertical websites. But the biggest change is that consumers no longer rely a single resource for information. On average consumers are looking at 7.9 different sources for product information.
“Coupon codes” and “discount codes” for specific products are extremely popular search terms which can be highly effective at driving both website and in-store retail traffic. It’s important to consider that consumers generally perform online searches for specific products, not store names. Therefore, use keyword-optimized “landing pages” for your most popular products to attract these highly targeted shoppers. These landing pages should contain detailed product descriptions, optimized images, videos (if available), customer feedback and testimonials, and third-party endorsements, etc. These landing pages not only help drive product sales but can also lift your website’s overall search engine rankings.
3. Leverage the viral power of social media. Social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter offer retailers the opportunity to empower loyal customers to significantly increase both the reach and impact of their offers. Since the average Facebook user has 130 friends and 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations (according to Neilson), a social media marketing program has quickly become a “must-do” for any retailer. Compete’s study* reveals that consumers are seeking out retailers on Facebook and Twitter in growing numbers; 31 percent report checking out Facebook fan pages or Twitter feeds of retailers – almost twice as many people as in Q3 2009.
While setting up a Facebook fan page and Twitter account is free, maintaining it and properly leveraging it to drive measurable increases in sales isn’t. Social media success requires a well-planned social media strategy, which hinges on timely, highly relevant and entertaining content that encourages discussion and sharing. A poorly planned social media strategy, on the other hand, can disenchant consumers and result in dramatic adverse effects on your store’s online reputation, potentially causing greater harm than good.
4. Blog your way to increased sales. A blog is an important component of any interactive marketing and social media strategy today, serving as an excellent way to establish and maintain a dialogue with your most vocal customers. Since blogs are not yet commonly used among all retailers today, it’s an easy way to distinguish your store from the competition and increase customer loyalty. A blog is also an excellent way to solicit informal feedback from your customers about your company and products. In addition to the customer engagement value, content of your blog posts can be search engine optimized with titles and key words to help lift your website’s search engine rankings.
5. Embrace cross-channel marketing. We define cross-channel marketing as the use of one marketing channel (such as direct mail) to support or promote another channel. Since an estimated 9 in 10 consumers now research products online and via mobile devices to narrow down their purchase options before stepping foot into a retail store, effective cross-channel marketing has become a necessary component of any retailer’s marketing strategy. Consumers today expect a unified experience across all marketing channels which include content, design, pricing, and promotions.
A properly implemented cross-channel marketing strategy may use a catalog that drives your website traffic or an email campaign that grows your Facebook fan base. Providing your retail customers discounts, exclusive offers and digital coupons typically serve as proper incentives. Essentially, cross promote all of your marketing channels in all of your marketing channels.
6. Empower your website to drive in-store sales. Transform your website into a hub for all of the vital information your customers need to make a smart purchasing decision. Include detailed manufacturer product descriptions, large multi-angle photos, cross-product comparison functionality, rich media (video), product ratings and reviews, customer testimonials, warranty information and return policies. Include local promotions and weekly circular advertisements into your website. Be sure to include a store locator and consider adding an in-store product inventory feature and “buy online, pick up in-store” functionality to provide customers added convenience and avoid disappointment.
*Compete Online Shopper Intelligence™ study
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