Marketing Your In-Person Greatness Online
Online vs. In Store Marketing
According to a Forbes article, “Retailers indicate that customers like to browse the Internet to research major products, but when it comes to making an actual purchase, they prefer to do it in person, in the store, according to almost half of retailers (46%).” So, while your customers are doing online research of your products and services, almost half of them want to purchase directly from you. This is a huge benefit for you in a time when online sales seem to be dwarfing retail shopping (if you pay attention to the headlines). This newfound ability to research online and buy in store makes marketing different. Instead of relying on a few comfortable marketing methods that take time to get traction, consumers change focus on a dime, forcing you to keep up the the trends and constantly change your marketing strategy as traction is gained and lost in a very quick time frame across a variety of marketing channels—some you may not even be thinking about. The key is making sure you control your marketing, allowing your business to be found online during the research process by optimizing your distribution channels to get in front of the consumer during product consideration and then carrying that online enthusiasm into your store for point-of-sale without a break in the consumer experience.
Modern shopping isn’t that different than mid-20th century purchasing; the customer sees or hears about a product, looks for it, recognizes it on the shelf, makes the connection between what s/he has seen and heard, and decides whether or not to purchase the product. The change is that instead of seeing or hearing about your product on the radio, television, or a billboard, customers want you in the palm of their hand—in online channels. When they hear about the service you offer, they expect to go to www.yourbusiness.com and learn who you are, what you do, and most importantly, what you have to offer. If they don’t come to your site, they may see you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. When they find you online in one place, the chances of them coming to your store immediately are still slim. It is more likely that they will look at your website if they saw you on social media or vice versa.
These customers are smart! They want as much information as they can get before making a purchase. Your best strategy for online marketing is to make sure your messaging is strong at all points so customers get a good first impression no matter where they meet you.
The good news from the Forbes article is that customers who like what they see about you online will come to the store to finalize their research and make their purchase. This gives you the chance to engage with the customer, answer any questions they have that they could not find answers to online. They are coming in because they want more from their experience than their mailman leaving a package at the front door. This is where you have the advantage over your online competition. Use it! Online descriptions of items have nothing on your best salesperson asking how the customer is planning to use your service and finding just the right fit, even if it’s not what they initially had in mind. Talk up the benefits of the items you carry: made in the USA, locally sourced, supports the community, winner of a prestigious award—the kinds of things that are missed in online interactions.
And don’t forget to throw in the mega bonus of buying from a you, the friendly, local, in-person retailer who they can come to with questions and for more products!
However your customer finds you, your advantage is being able to be there, in person, at the time of purchase. This gives you the opportunity to continue to educate and engage the consumer once they’ve made the decision to buy the product they are looking for from your company. Make sure your online and in-store messages are the same in voice, resources, look, and feel. Yes, it’s that omnichannel strategy we’ve been talking about. Online to in store should be one continuous journey. Don’t drop the ball along the way.