04/06/2015

By Marc Schillaci, CEO and Founder of Actinic (Part of the Oxatis Group)


The latest Global Retail Ecommerce Index study shows that Europe, Great Britain, Germany and France are the most promising countries for ecommerce. These markets represent fantastic opportunities for pure play online retailers; for example Asos, an online retailer that doesn’t have any physical stores. However, the role of bricks-and-mortar stores in sales strategies also needs to be considered. Consumers are now accustomed to carrying out their purchases on a variety of channels, ROPO (researching online, purchase offline) is becoming ingrained in the customer journey. Combining the advantages of online shopping (ease of price comparison, convenience, availability and so on) with those of physical stores (touching and trying the product, instant purchase, etc.) is the challenge merchants are now facing.

Businesses need to adapt to these new buying trends by offering a seamless shopping experience across all of their channels. In 2014, mobile commerce accounted for £20.09 billion in European sales, it’s a channel that is developing at a phenomenal rate, with the UK market alone expected to reach £14.95 billion in 2015. Mobile is a huge potential for businesses.

Here are some strategies that open up the possibility of generating revenue via the internet, geolocation and mobile, whilst also attracting clients to physical store.

Strategies to drive traffic into physical stores: pushing the bricks-and-mortar channel

Social to store: The principle of social to store is to generate in-store revenue via social media, for example, many consumers check company Facebook pages before going into a physical store. Facebook is seen as the go-to platform for finding out information about a business, its products and more often than not, to check customer written reviews.

With this in mind, Walmart created a Facebook app called, “My Local Walmart” to increase its digital presence in-store. Store managers can connect with users, communicate about products, in-store events and offer discounts to create a ‘local’ and personal shopping experience.

Mobile to store: Mobile is an essential channel for businesses. According to Econsultancy, 60% of SMBs said they were integrating mobile into their wider marketing activities. For example, when a consumer uses a smartphone to locate the nearest store, either through an app or a mobile optimised website.

Coupons: Smartphones are helping to promote discounts. By offering consumers promo codes and discount vouchers via mobile, which can then be redeemed in-store – it is encouraging consumers to engage with companies on all platforms. Facebook even has a feature that enables local businesses with 50 or more likes to create special offers for in-store use. Along with geolocation strategies, where stores can record your data as you approach and offer you an immediate in-store discount.

Click and collect: Click and collect, reserving or buying online and picking up in-store, is becoming more popular in the UK. According to YouGov research, 39% of consumers used this service over the Christmas 2014 period. It can be a way of upselling or cross-selling in stores, giving merchants the chance to increase average order values. It’s also another shipping method for merchants to offer, giving consumers a variety of choices.

Store and product locators: Using mobile devices to find, not only, the closest store but the closest one that has the product you want in stock. House of Fraser, winner of last year’s Retail Systems Award for Best Multi-Channel Retailer, have setup stock checks on their site, via their mobile app, whereby they are giving consumers an overview of stock availability across their network.

What about Digital in-store?

Digital in-store involves integrating digital devices in-store to increase customer engagement, geolocation, tablets in store and a variety of other strategies. House of Fraser is forging ahead again here, with an app that detects when you are in store and adjusts accordingly, offering scanning capabilities, stock levels and navigation maps. Digital in-store gives merchants the opportunity to personalise the consumer buying experience and target their offers. With the advent of NFC (Near Field Communications) payments, digital in-store will be significantly reducing queuing times too!

The digitalisation of sales points is also growing due to the increase of iBeacons. An iBeacon is a low-energy Bluetooth transmitter which can send messages to nearby smartphones and tablets. Think Minority Report style advertising, where you could receive notifications such as welcome messages, targeted promotions, or information about the store or products! iBeacons can also collect data which can later be analysed to better profile consumers, facilitate targeting or even in-store tracking.

Pitching bricks and mortar stores against internet stores no longer makes sense: they’re complementary channels. The internet enables you to reach consumers 24/7 via a variety of devices: smartphones, tablets, computers, yet physical stores will always remain the point-of-contact between brands and consumers. Physical and online trade shouldn’t be treated as separate entities and retailers who understand that these channels are converging will be tomorrow’s winners.