Your most loyal and valuable customers shop across multiple channels, both online and offline. Consumers who buy products both online and in-store have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel.
In fact, customers don’t see “channels” in the same way as marketers do. They want a superior shopping experience wherever they are, whatever device they are using, and at the time that is convenient for them. Nearly two-thirds of US consumers said they want a consistent level of service regardless if they’re shopping at a physical location or online.
To be able to provide a consistent experience that will turn casual browsers into loyal customers, you need to make sure you connect your in-store experience with your online marketing strategy.
This is the case both if you’re a traditional retailer trying to build an innovative online experience, and if you’re a digitally native brand expanding to physical locations. In either case, you need a consistent and delightful experience for your customers — no matter where they buy. Here’s how to build an effective marketing strategy across channels whatever your business model.
Bringing the in-store experience online
If you want to survive and thrive in this digital world, you need to make sure your online presence is just as strong as your retail store experience. It doesn’t matter if, for example, a customer is price checking products in your store before leaving, as long as they end up completing the purchase with you through another channel.
But there is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating an omnichannel strategy that marries the two. That’s why you need to use the data you already have collected on your customers in-store to understand what they are looking online, on social media, and on mobile.
Plug the data from your POS into your CRM so you can get a 360-degree view of your customers and provide the same level of service no matter which channel they are shopping in. In fact, almost two-thirds of retailers say the use of big data and analytics is creating a competitive advantage for their organizations.
What does that look like? Here are two great examples of brands that tie their store powerfully to the online experience.
1. Zara seamlessly connects in-store and online ordering
Zara has been bringing together the online and in-store experience through a number of innovations over the past few years. Zara has equipped physical stores so that they can ship orders online or do pick up in store. It also uses robots to automate the process of picking up goods you’ve ordered online and gives its store associates iPads so they can help customers order clothes online and pick them up later.
2. Sephora’s digital product guides in-store shopping
Beauty retailer Sephora has been able to continue to run successful brick-and-mortar stores by connecting its digital and in-store experiences. Store associates can use Digital Skincare and Makeover guides to note products used or recommended in-store and then send them to clients via email when they leave the store.
Sephora also uses its mobile app to join up the shopping experience. When customers approach a Sephora store, the app provides them with product recommendations, as well as displays items they have previously browsed. All of this drives more engagement both in-person AND online.
Digital natives taking their brands offline
The retail apocalypse has claimed many well-known bricks-and-mortar retailers, but that doesn’t mean the store is dead. Far from it. For many sectors, consumers still prefer to shop in-store, especially in areas such as furniture, apparel, and shoes. For many buyers, seeing, testing, and trying on the product is important.
That’s why digital native brands from Amazon to Warby Parker to Everlane have opened bricks-and-mortar locations that are continuing to thrive.
The secret to this success is ensuring that the in-store experience is an extension of your ecommerce brand. It should complement the online experience instead of competing with it. You need to build a retail experience that is curated to appeal to your most loyal, high-value customers. To do that, you need to know who they are and what they want. That’s where the data you collect on their shopping habits comes in.
So what does that look like? Here are three great examples of brands that tie their store powerfully to the online experience.
1. ThredUp moves from online-only to in-person
The online consignment marketplace ThredUp may have started online, but this digital native brand plans to eventually expand its store footprint to 100. One of the reasons behind its success is how it is using its online customer data.
ThredUp uses information from its most active online customers to select its inventory. It chooses the selection of items to stock in each store according to products that are trending in each location.
2. Modcloth enables in-store try-ons
Vintage women’s ecommerce brand Modcloth is another digital native brand that has set up retail stores around the country. The company has embraced the showroom model popular similar to the one Bonobos uses for its Guideshops.
Modcloth’s “Fitshop” stores don’t stock inventory, but instead allow customers to try on samples, get advice from stylists, and then order the clothes they like to be delivered later at home. To do this, Modcloth has joined up the in-store experience with its online marketing efforts. The idea is also to encourage customers to spend more time in-store so they can build a relationship with the brand.
3. Glossier creates Instagram-friendly spaces
While most retailers define themselves as traditional bricks-and-mortar or digital natives and make the move to open stores or improve their online presence, beauty brand Glossier believes it is neither ecommerce nor a traditional physically-led retailing. Instead, it is described as “emotional commerce”, where the idea is that retail is about discovery and art.
While the brand started with pop-up retail spaces, they’ve since invested in their own stores. As part of this strategy, Glossier invested in its own POS for its flagship store in New York. This allows customers to start orders in-store and finish them online (and vice versa). It also gives Glossier’s store associates real-time data on their customers so they can personalize the experience in store and help them make better purchases. The entire space is also clearly Instagram-bait for the brand’s Millennial and Gen Z consumers.
Use your data wisely
Your data should be driving all your decisions when connecting in-store and online if you want to innovate and stay ahead of consumer expectations. If you aren’t connecting and using all your data across channels to understand what your customers want, you’ll risk falling behind.
For each of these brands — whether they started online or in traditional retail — the key to connecting the customer experience across channels is always the data. You have to know and understand clearly what your best customers want and need from your brand. Only then can you clearly connect your in-store experience to your online marketing strategy.