Three Ways Bridge Online and Offline

How can you give your customers the best of both the online and offline worlds? Here at inRiver, we have a few ideas.

It is not surprising that an increasing number of customers—nearly 80%, according to a recent study by Pew Research—begin their product search and selection online. More than half of those surveyed have purchased something using their mobile phones. The main reasons for this surge are convenience and the ability to easily compare product features and cost. However, without these benefits, nearly two-thirds of respondents would prefer to shop in a brick-and-mortar store.

Bridge Between Online and Offline Environments

So, how can you give your customers the best of both worlds?  Here at inRiver, we have a few ideas.

Create Endless Aisles

To allow brick-and-mortar shoppers some of the benefits of online shopping, take a page from the digital playbook. Some successful retailers are using information from online channels in their offline marketing and in-store displays, such as presenting Amazon reviews or product ratings on the shelf under the product. Other stores are providing tablets and laptops to allow customers to compare products, view online-only product selections, and check prices.

If a product is out of stock in the store, “endless aisle” technology enables customers to complete an online order quickly while standing next to the shelf. Integrated IT systems mean that customers can return online orders in-store instead of having to mail them back and wait for a replacement or refund.

However, the key to ensuring consistency across these channels in uniformity, accuracy, and completeness in your product information.

Enrich the In-store Experience

There are various ways to use online interactions across the customer journey to drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. Store locators, product reservation tools, and click-and-collect options all boost revenue because they help online customers leverage the benefits of the in-store experience.

For a customer who wants to try on a pair of shoes or test an electronic device before purchasing, it is likely that they will visit a local store. And if the product information that they reviewed online becomes a reality in the in-person interaction, you may have won a new customer!

Recognize Your Customers

Many merchants have the goal of not only recognizing customers throughout the buyer journey, but also personalizing, and thereby enhancing, the customer experience. However, it is necessary to first recognize buyers as they visit your store or site.

There are a number of traditional and “low-tech” methods of identifying customers, as well as many innovative and automated methods. For example, cookies embedded in the browser of website visitors “remember” selections made by the user and can attribute these movements back to returning visitors and to specific devices being used to surf the site.

Requesting that buyers opt-in to receive emails is a simple way of identifying existing customers and building a list of shoppers and customers. Recommending products based on previous purchases shows customers that you are paying attention to their preferences. In addition, developing a mobile app or online survey can provide a great deal of data about customers.

Providing in-store WiFi and requiring shoppers to sign in with identifying information is one way to collect information for identifying in-store customers and prospects. With the increasing use of social media and digital payment methods, more data can continue to be collected—adding context and enrichment to both personas and to individual customer profiles.

Once you are able to recognize your customers, you can offer more relevant and contextual content that suits their needs. And if your product information is enriched and accurate, you can upsell and cross-sell more effectively, enhancing each individual’s customized experience.

Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver