Even retailers without an online catalog are realizing that having a strong digital presence is essential to bringing foot traffic into their physical store. Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at the facts. According to Forbes, brands including Target, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus report that over 60 percent of their brick and mortar sales are digitally influenced. If big box retailers depend this heavily on digital channels, we can only estimate how important it is for smaller stores to have a strong online and mobile presence, as well.

Digital is a pathway for retailers to showcase their goods to customers searching for new brands – as well as places to purchase these items. It also enables customers to shop their favorite products on their own time. Yet don’t take this to mean that retailers can successfully drive sales without fully integrating their online and offline presence. In fact, it’s quite the contrary: Whether a retailer is large and international or small and hyper-local, it’s important to give customers a consistent shopping experience… no matter how they choose to access the brand.

Keeping this in mind, let’s go over 5 quick-tips to merge your digital presence with your physical store.

#1. Incentivize Website Visits at Your Physical Cash Wrap

If you want more of your physical customers to engage with your brand online, you first need to ask yourself if your IP address and social media accounts are clearly visible on your cash wrap stands. So… are they? Next, ask yourself if your signage would motivate a customer to check out your digital presence. Does it? If there isn’t some type of product discount, exclusive event invite, or truly desirable insider knowledge being offered to your website visitors and / or social media followers, it’s time to buckle down and snag that digital traffic before one of your competitors beats you to the punch.

#2. Offer Product Testing in Physical Stores  

We already discussed that most brick and mortar sales are digitally-influenced, but brick and mortar stores also have a strong impact on digital and mobile commerce. In fact, according to a 2017 report by IBM, 71 percent of customers shop online to find the best price when shopping in a physical mortar store. This process is referred to as showrooming and while retailers have historically shunned their noses at this, it can actually work to your advantage. Since physical experiences translate into digital sales, it is time to re-evaluate how you define in-store success. Encourage customers to try products in your store and measure your associates’ success not just by direct sales, but by engagement. In addition, send each customer home with a list of the products they explored so that they can follow up with the products later on your company’s website – or even social media.

#3. Update Data Across Channels in Real-Time

To provide customers with a consistent brand experience, you need to fully integrate your mobile, desktop and brick and mortar storefronts. In other words, if your website says that a product is in-stock, it darn well better be there when a customer enters your physical store to pick it up. To ensure this is the case, check that all of your digital accounts are linked to your in-store inventory, as well as the products at your warehouse (which may simply be your backroom or existing store floor). It’s a lot easier to keep track of your advertisements and inventory when all of your company’s online components take place on one channel. 

#4. Use Chatbots for Basic Customer Service

Consumers have high expectations for customer service, which includes lightspeed-fast response times to their online queries. Many smaller retailers make the mistake of thinking that they can’t afford to give their customers round the clock online customer service… but this couldn’t be further from the truth. A basic, self-service chatbot can immediately answer customer service questions and direct your online traffic to where it needs to be - and they cost anywhere from $15 to $100 a month. This is perfect if you don’t have the time or staff to be online interacting with customers 24/7.

#5. Train Customers to Engage on Social Media

Social media is a great tool to maintain an ongoing dialogue with your customers and to expand your customer base. To extend customer engagement online beyond a single “like” or “follow,” however, you need to maintain an impeccable online reputation by providing followers with a reason to care. This may include exclusive social media offers for in-store discounts, news updates announced only online and more. This will bridge the gap between your digital and physical traffic, as well as bring customers back to your website again and again... until it becomes a habit for them to visit your website first.  

No matter what the size of your business, you can set yourself apart from the competition by merging your online and offline retail experience. Make total fusion across platforms a goal for your company in order to increase your sales (and profits) on every available channel.

Take advantage of ASD Market Week’s 90+ free retail strategy sessions this July 29 – August 2, 2018 in Las Vegas.

By Jasmine Glasheen, RetailMinded.com