Nowadays, the average customer journey can be rather complicated. Consumers expect retail experiences that are smooth, seamless, and most importantly, omnichannel. As a result, retailers must look at how they can optimize their strategies to offer a holistic presence – bringing together both online and offline operations.
Econsultancy tells us that “nearly 40% of online searchers make a purchase after being influenced by an offline channel”. In maintaining an online and offline presence, it can sometimes prove challenging trying to connect the two. With that in mind, here are some tips for bridging the offline/online customer experience successfully.
Keeping things consistent
This first point is perhaps an obvious one, but it bears reinforcing. A big part of connecting the online and offline experience is consistency: in design, branding, and messaging. It’s often the case that a customer may see your advertising out in the real world before searching online to find out more. If your branding doesn’t match up, your credibility will take a hit.
Consumers expect consistency each time they encounter your business. Even if selling online doesn’t form a big part of what you do, a professional-looking ecommerce website that fits with the rest of your communications is essential. It doesn’t have to be a big endeavor, these days. On-brand imagery, language and ease of use are the most important factors.
Cosmetics retailer Lush is a good example. Observe the visual similarities in their online and offline branding below – font choices, color scheme, etc.
There’s something about mobile
As we’ve discussed, modern consumers use a variety of channels to make their purchases today. But one of the biggest things that can get in the way of this is mobile experience. More than half of us still find it cumbersome to complete a transaction on a mobile device, and around the same percentage of retailers fail to optimize their websites for tablets.
On top of that, a growing number of people are keen to take advantage of the opportunity to use their mobile phones while visiting a store, whether that’s to check if what they want is in stock, save money with real-time promotions, or earn extra loyalty points. As yet, most retailers don’t offer this service, so those that do have a distinct competitive advantage.
Shopify users will find that exploring functionality like geo targeting is not as complicated as you might think. For $10 a month, the Geo Targeting app integrates with your store to target offers, news and coupon codes at certain locations. The more visual and eye-catching you can make these notifications, the better.
The case for vanity URLs
A vanity URL is a shortened version of your web address that’s easier for customers to remember. They’re mostly used for offline advertisements, such as billboards and posters, so people won’t struggle to recall the website at a later date. What’s more, you can track this URL to judge the effectiveness of your offline advertising efforts.
Once someone has landed on your vanity URL page, you can then look to retarget those users digitally if they failed to convert the first time around. Vanity URLs are also easier to share and perceived as more trustworthy.
Below are some examples of what a vanity URL might look like. You can find out how to set one up for your landing page here.
- fashionwebsite.com/categories/womens/dresses/party-dresses becomes www.fashionwebsite.com/party-dresses
- mymusicwebsite.com/events/live-gigs/chicago-street-party-2018 becomes www.mymusicwebsite.com/street-party
- welovecats.com/cat-breeds/maine-coon/how-to-care-for-your-maine-coon becomes www.welovecats.com/maine-coon-care
Why you should be collecting data regularly
Whether offline or online, it’s important to know the best way to contact your customers. While it’s always recommended to collect a name and email when people buy from you online, asking for too much personal information in one go can be offputting – potentially enough to risk an abandoned shopping cart.
So make creating an account optional, and make use of those email addresses to send each new customer a thank you email, along with an incentive to complete a short survey about their shopping experience. That initial contact could lead to a series of feedback requests that help you improve your customer experience, both online and off. Good retailers understand the importance of reputation management – and if you wanted to bring the same ethos in-store, you might want to consider targeted smartphone notifications, surveys that can be filled out via tablet as customers exit the store, or comment cards.
Creating engagement through social media
Finally, your social media strategy can play a big role in engaging customers, whether they shop online or in-store. Even if they don’t visit your website, chances are if they shop with you regularly, they at least follow your social media channels. It’s a great way to remind them about offers, events, new releases, and your company ethos. Never underestimate the power of a good UGC campaign – the ultimate way to bring offline experiences into the online world.
In summary, keep in mind that today’s consumers do not see distinct shopping channels. Rather, they will have an overall view of your brand that’s informed by their experiences across multiple touchpoints. A unified approach is key, as the online/offline worlds will only continue to merge.