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  • September 30, 2020
  • By Linda Pophal, business journalist and content marketer

Use Digital Platforms to Drive In-Store Traffic, and Vice Versa

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Retailers should also recognize and seek to assuage the safety concerns that many people have related to the pandemic. Both messaging around safety precautions (like requiring masks) and obvious visual affirmation that precautions are being taken (like requiring staff to wear masks, practice social distancing, and have hand sanitizer readily available in prominent locations around the store) can help to ease consumer concerns.

David Greenberg, senior vice president of marketing at Act-On Software, emphasizes how truly important this is: “Right now, in-store visits understandably give many consumers pause. Therefore, it’s important to build their trust and make them feel safe venturing in,” he says.

Greenberg recommends that retailers use their digital platforms to “address how you’re handling sanitization, social distancing, and other health precautions.” He also suggests “sending segmented communications about operating hours that will serve your customers who are at higher risk—think senior hours.”

In addition, Goldring says, retailers need to make sure that their messaging is consistent across digital channels and physical locations. It’s important for retailers to “create a seamless omnichannel experience that merges bricks and clicks with e-commerce,” she says.

COVID “has transformed the physical retail store from a transactional purpose to one which is transactional, experiential, and conversational,” she says.

Goldring suggests that retailers consider the following strategies for addressing each of these three types of interactions with customers:

• Transactional. Retailers can improve CRM by using data analytics to build relevant segments and offer personalized recommendations. “Improvements in in-store technologies include real-time assistance, enhanced radio-frequency identification (RFID) applications, mobile point of service, mobile-friendly websites, and mobile apps,” Goldring says.

• Experiential. Experiential retail is all about entertaining and providing novel in-store experiences, which has been disrupted by COVID, Goldring says. “Now shoppers seek clean, social-distanced stores with features like minimal interaction with sales associates, and services such as curbside pickup and robotic delivery. Technologies like Amazon’s walk-out shopping track and replenish out-of-stock merchandise and eliminate waits in line and checking out. There may be an increase in vending, kiosk, or pop-up shopping,” she says.

• Conversational. Retailers must communicate how much they value their customers’ satisfaction, safety, and health. More personal customer information might be needed to build trust in the store’s safety policies and fluctuating inventory. Social media is a natural platform to advertise and build brand awareness as consumers increasingly use their mobile phones to browse and shop. Emails can nurture customer relationships.

Greenberg suggests in-store mini events as a way to attract customers to physical stores. But, he says, it’s important to communicate carefully about these options to ensure they’re relevant to the audiences being targeted. “Being aware of location is especially crucial here, as you don’t want to promote an event in California to someone who lives in Texas,” he cautions.

In addition, he says, it’s important to make sure events are relevant to customers’ needs. “Should you be inviting a loyal, long-term customer to an introductory Q&A? Definitely not. Paying attention to these types of details will prevent you from looking spammy and misinformed,” he says.

Scot Chrisman, CEO of the Media House, a digital marketing agency, emphasizes social media and in-store pickups for converting web traffic into foot traffic. Social media, he says, “is the most effective marketing channel.” He recommends that retailers use social media to let people know about seasonal store sales and include promo codes to tempt customers to make in-store purchases. In-store pickup can boost foot traffic, he says, and once customers are in the store, it’s highly likely that they’ll make additional purchases.

STRATEGIES IN ACTION

Jeff Moriarty is marketing manager at Moriarty’s Gem Art, a family-owned jewelry business in Indiana. Like so many other small retailers, Moriarty’s was forced to shut down due to the pandemic. It was closed for about three months, and upon reopening, the store needed to increase foot traffic. It implemented a two-step approach to do so.

“First, we added the ability for people to pick up their purchase in our store,” Moriarty says. “Most customers have told us they wanted to see the item in person or it was a gift, and their spouse was ETH以太坊_Mybit专业home all day. It has worked out great, and we count on the holiday season to be huge for us this year.”

Moriarty has also made use of heavy local advertising through Facebook, Instagram, and Google Adwords. “This has increased our local visitors to our website, which has resulted in one out of 10 orders being picked up,” he says.

Celeste Huffman is with Rogers & Hollands, a larger jeweler with 75 locations around the country. “We have always had an option to pick up in-store through our checkout. But with the reopening of the country in the last couple months, we have seen an influx of people actually choosing this option,” she says.

Based on observations, the store chain wanted to make the in-store pickup option more visible to potential customers; they’ve done this by adding the option to all product pages to improve visibility. “We implemented an easy-to-use module that allows customers to not only choose the store [where] they can pick up the product, but to see if inventory is available. We have seen tremendous growth in people coming to stores in the short amount of time this has been live on our website.”

Like Moriarty, Huffman is expecting this option to be very successful during the holidays. 

Linda Pophal is a freelance business journalist and content marketer who writes for various business and trade publications. Pophal does content marketing for Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and individuals on a wide range of subjects, from human resource management and employee relations to marketing, technology, healthcare industry trends, and more.

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