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Why integrated retail is blurring the (on and off) lines

Posted by Tom Power on October 23, 2014

Twenty years ago there was a real fear among many traditional retailers that the Internet was going to mean the end for brick-and-mortar stores. And clearly that fear was well founded for some retailers who have fallen by the wayside as pure-pay giants like Amazon revolutionized the shopping experience.



But for the savvy retailers who embraced the Internet as an additional channel for reaching shoppers, the brick-and-mortar stores are still there and playing an important role in the business. Many shoppers today are doing their research online (and often via mobile), while most purchases are still made at brick-and-mortar stores.


Dubbed “click and mortar” by some, this combination of online research and in-store experience, topped off with mobile-optimized incentives/coupons, seems to be what shoppers want. Let’s just call it integrated retail.



It’s an integrated world after all
As a retailer, you can run your online and in-store businesses separately, based on differences in team expertise and to encourage competition. But don’t expect your customers to look at your business as separate entities. They will expect you to deliver as a unified brand, no matter how and where they are shopping with you. Consequently, the experience from channel to channel should be consistent, positive and rewarding, and those channels should include:

  • Direct mail and email
  • Traditional circulars and online ads
  • Digital and traditional signage
  • Catalog, TV, radio and print



A shopper’s journey
OK, now that you know you have a captive audience, the question becomes how to retain it. First, make sure the URL or link you’ve supplied gets users to the right product page. Next, make it easy for them to add the product to their shopping cart while applying the coupon code, if applicable. Finally, since customer experience is key, make sure the mobile web version of your site is as easy to navigate as your desktop version to avoid frustrating users. In a perfect world, you’ve developed the site following responsive design principles so that your fluid grid works across all devices and screens.

Of course, retail is not a perfect world, and sometimes customers return products. A best practice is to allow returns both online and in the store. Why? Say you only offer an online return policy. If there is a 23% return rate on product X, that means you get a 77% net sale. But if you also offer an in-store option, you have a better opportunity to engage shoppers. Research shows that once at the store, 18% of those shoppers make a purchase. And that gives you a 95% net sale.1



Integrated retail = interested shoppers
There are other ways to meet customers where they shop. Send offers to them via text. Provide in-store associates with training and tools such as iPads to ensure valuable product and pricing data is simply a tap or swipe away. Even the traditional retail circular can have a digital twin that provides local deals – something shoppers seem to trust and want more. There are countless possibilities, but the key is a focus on shopping behavior and to build a marketing plan based on integrated retail marketing principles.



Going mobile
Spending on mobile marketing in the United States is expected to reach $19.8 billion in 2015, which is nearly double the $10.5 billion that brands spent in 2013.2 What’s driving the increase? Statistics like these, to name a few:

  • 74% of smartphone owners use their phones to help with shopping3
  • 9% of those shoppers make a decision based on this smartphone use3
  • 2 out of 3 mobile users notice ads4
  • 53.2 million people will use mobile coupons in 20145
  • Mobile coupons are redeemed at 10 times the rate of traditional coupons6
  • 51% of email opens worldwide take place on mobile devices7


Some retailers might find that last statistic about the number of emails that are opened on mobile devices surprising. Although text and instant messaging communications are popular, email remains the principal form of communication between brands and consumers. It is still the primary way that brand marketers announce sales and other limited-time offers, and email is also the conduit for order confirmations, merchandise return procedures, cancellations and myriad other transactional-type communications between business and consumer.8


This all underscores the importance of optimizing the design of emails for mobile consumers. If your email is difficult to navigate or takes too long to open on a smartphone, chances are that many of them will not engage with it—and they might even unsubscribe. Mobile optimization includes designing with mobile screen widths in mind, making sure subject lines are short and to the point, making links easy to click and, above all, testing, testing, testing.

Last but not least, be sure to customize your emails with personalized information, and not just the customer’s name and address. Personalizing emails means including specific information about customers, such as previous purchasing behavior and other information needed to make a purchase that might not be immediately available.


For example, one of Jacobs & Clevenger’s clients is HERE, the world leader in navigation system map technology. J&C manages a program for HERE that targets vehicle owners to update the map in their in-dash navigation systems. To do so, owners need their vehicle information, including make, model and either Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or navigation platform information—not data that most people will have handy at any given moment.


J&C targeted these customers with emails that contained this information, as well as the number of years since they had updated their maps. This example of personalization drove a 36% increase in response—quite a big lift for including information that was pretty simple to include.



Topics: CMO

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