You’ve certainly heard about the importance of delivering an “omnichannel path to purchase” or a “seamless shopper journey.” Frankly, these concepts can seem abstract and complicated, especially when you’re laser-focused on driving sales. But, if you think about what steps you take as a shopper, you’ll realize they are simply modern descriptions of how people shop (or would like to shop).
Imagine you’re in the market for a new tablet, a stroller, or even a hair styling product. You’ll likely start your path to purchase by gathering intelligence online. Recent research found that 86% of all new product searches begin on Amazon or a search engine such as Google.
After you’ve gone down the rabbit hole of online reviews, endorsements, and videos, you’re probably headed to a store to find out if the product lives up to its online reputation.
Shoppers across all categories are doing their due diligence, researching online before buying offline (ROBO for short) and entering the store more knowledgeable than ever before.
Fifty-eight percent of HBA, 41% of electronics, and 36% of baby purchases are researched online before purchased offline.
At the same time, there’s still a crucial segment of showrooming consumers (more than 55%) who visit stores to browse or test products before purchasing online. In fact, a recent Forrester study found 60% of men and 52% of women visit 2 or more retailers during their product search.
All of this is to say, the physical store can be the end of the journey, the beginning, or one of many stops along the way.
These shifts in buying behavior prove it’s still important for shoppers to see products in person, validate their research, and seek answers to questions from a category expert. Without thinking, shoppers expect in-store staff to have category and product knowledge at the same level as AI. A knowledgeable customer expects that if they’ve done their research, a retail associate must also be an expert.
Getting to “We don’t care where you buy it.”
The change in dynamics and expectations requires a speedy shift in tactics and in mindset. Depending on your organizational structure and the partners you have in place, making this shift is easier said than done.
Brands continue to frequently drive internal teams to deliver on separate .com and physical retail sales goals, leaving many of our clients pressured to illustrate direct ROI for spend in physical retail. Accurate cross-channel measurement continues to be a challenge, as most attribution models account for a limited number of consumer touchpoints.
Measurement will continue to challenge us because shoppers don’t give much thought to the benefit or consequence of where they choose to buy. They’re not thinking about whether their purchase will be attributed back to the field sales manager, the individual store, or to a physical retailer vs. an online marketplace. They’re thinking about how fast they can get it, their level of consumer confidence and how easy it will be to return it if they determine it’s not the right item.
How to Accommodate the New Role of Stores.
To show ROI for physical retail, we must acknowledge the evolving role stores play in shoppers’ lives. Omnichannel is a new cost of doing business with shoppers expecting harmony between the digital and physical shopping experience.
By 2023, 58% of U.S. retail sales will be digitally impacted, meaning those sales will either occur online or may occur in-store but will be influenced by digital technologies.
Bazaarvoice analyzed more than 4.5 million data points from 32 global retailers across key product categories to confirm that almost half (45%) of brick-and-mortar sales start with an online review, which marks a 15% year-over-year increase.
There’s incredible opportunity to anticipate consumers looking for guidance on mobile and to accommodate them by answering questions and misperceptions in real time.
The low-hanging fruit is all the insight gleaned from online product reviews. Because reviews play a key role in consumer discovery and experience, brands and retailers need to pay attention to the content of those reviews. Using natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML), we can uncover customer perceptions, buying patterns and product use cases more accurately than by manual analysis.
Want to better engage your channel-surfing shopper? Premium is here to help with that too. We guide clients in testing a diversified mix of engagement tactics across social, online marketplaces, mobile apps and messaging platforms. It’s the holy grail of influencing shoppers in every stage and goes further to connect online efforts to offline sales (or vice versa).