How Your Web Site Can Drive In-Store Traffic
The Internet has become the dominant vehicle for consumer prepurchase research. Case in point: In brick-and-mortar stores, U.S. consumers are buying, based on prior online research, at a faster clip than they are online. This phenomenon is being driven by two primary consumer shopping requirements: efficiency and convenience.
Recognizing this as a tremendous opportunity, astute multichannel retailers like Sears, Target and Best Buy are revamping, enhancing and expanding their Web sites beyond traditional e-commerce to influence shoppers' online decision-making -- and, ultimately, driving them to local stores to purchase.
Retailers are focused on creating sites that answer three key shopper questions:
- What product is right for me?
- Is it on sale?
- Where can I buy it?
On a very basic level, retailers can respond to the first question by offering a robust search and browse experience, as well as rich, in-depth product information, such as high resolution images, in-depth features and buying guides.
Additionally, many retailers are integrating both consumer-contributed and expert reviews and ratings to provide deeper buying information and guidance. These tools act as a sounding board for shoppers throughout the decision-making process. Providing a more useful, satisfying and educational online experience can help increase sales at local stores, where most customers will make the bulk of their purchases.
To best answer the second question, retailers feature their weekly in-store ads and specials more prominently on their Web sites. Retailers have long recognized that these time-sensitive special circular promotions, traditionally delivered via Sunday newspapers, are some of the most sought-after offers by shoppers and these promotions are effective at driving in-store sales. With shoppers using the Web more and more to gather information, retailers aggressively offer these sales and promotions on their sites. Specifically, retailers incorporate localized promotions in the following ways:
- as a permanent part of their site navigation;
- devoting weekly e-mail campaigns that feature the latest up-to-date in-store promotions;
- expanding the number of promotions beyond those in their print ads by creating Web-only "in-store specials"; and
- highlighting when specific items are on sale locally at relevant places throughout the site.
All of these efforts are aimed at driving in-store sales from the retailers' Web sites.
To create the most seamless shopping experience and to respond to the third question, "Where can I buy it?" many retailers now deliver information and components of the in-store experience via their Web sites.
For example, store locators have become standard features on multichannel retailers' sites. Additionally, with cross-channel services like merchandise availability checking, consumers can confirm whether and where their desired item is in stock before leaving home. And through "order online, pick up in-store" functionality, retailers effectively place the local store's cash register in shoppers' homes.
These offerings bring the online-influenced in-store purchasing shopping experience full circle, marrying the ease of online purchasing at home with the convenience and speed of local store pickup.
To sustain growth and profitability, smart retailers are adapting to a new landscape that still plays by the old rules. They're just doing what trusted merchants have done since the dawn of retail: arming their customers with the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions. And today, consumers are gathering this information via the Web.