Home » 3 Ways to Connect Online Shoppers to Brick and Mortar Stores

3 Ways to Connect Online Shoppers to Brick and Mortar Stores

Lindsay Tjepkema
Lindsay Tjepkema , Global Head of Content , Emarsys

I bet I can write one word that will make you want to click away from this page. I’ll write it, but you have to promise to stick with me and keep reading. OK, here we go: Showrooming.

I think I just heard the collective “Ugh!” that often proceeds an overused and slightly outdated buzzword that was once the hottest, trendiest topic (“Disruption”, your days are numbered!).

One of the reasons that word has started to lose the power it once held is that the idea of consumers visiting brick-and-mortar stores to research online purchases is no longer new. It’s not a trend. Retailers must accept the fact that consumers have made this part of almost every shopping experience.

Think about it, when have you not pulled out your phone in a store to read a review, check a price on Amazon, find additional product photos, take a picture to view later, cart the item to research more later, watch a review on YouTube… I would be so bold to say that if you aren’t doing this, you’re shopping the wrong way.

Retailers have started struggling to find ways to connect store shoppers to their sites. These in-store activities are often more challenging to influence, and often the shopper is initiating the action, whether it’s searching for a coupon or a product review.

When it comes to connecting online shoppers to stores, many retailers have clung to a few of the early strategies that helped to direct online shoppers to stores. Fundamental tactics such as in-store pick-up, store location, and even the somewhat more complex inventory look-up have help shoppers to transition from their taps and clicks to the doors of a physical store.

While these are still effective strategies, retailers need to look at ways to build on these successes to stay competitive and help the online shoppers make the move from site to store.

Here are three ways to connect the customer who is moving between channels and devices.

Cart Saver or Cart Abandoner?

It’s time to stop treating all shoppers who leave items in their shopping cart as abandoners. Many shoppers will intentionally leave items in their cart with the intent of shopping later. Your cart reminder email needs to reflect this consumer behavior.

Start by shifting the tone and content of your cart reminder away from cart expiration and urgency to complete an order. Instead, educate shoppers about ways they can reconnect with their cart and continue shopping. Share nearest or preferred store details. Increase awareness about your mobile shopping apps that can help the shopper navigate store aisles. Make this cart reminder a tool for the shopper rather than a threat that items in the cart may disappear.

Connect the Cart

If your shopping cart is only serving as the first page of order checkout, you are losing sales. The shopping cart is a primary connector between channels and devices. Shoppers use the cart to store items as they move between your site and your store, from their laptop to their phone, or when they just want to pause their shopping experience.

To help your shoppers pivot from your site to your store, you need to ensure that your shopping cart is optimized for mobile devices. The cart should be easily accessible, either from a cart reminder email or after only a few clicks on your mobile site. Shoppers should be able to access the product pages from their shopping cart, and use that information to locate the item in your store. Your staff should be trained to recognize shoppers who may be using their mobile cart to locate items and help them to make their selections.

Push Notifications

Many shoppers may research potential purchases on your site, but plan to actually make their purchase in a store. Data on such channel-crossing trends is now more accessible and actionable for marketers. Use this information to identify opportunities to send push notifications to shoppers who have been active on your site and are near your physical stores. Let them know about offers, sales, and services that are available if they want to drop by. While these interactions will benefit your shoppers’ experience, you will also gain value data about your mobile customers that will help you to build and refine your app and mobile strategy.

In the early days of e-commerce, marketers needed to teach consumers how to shop online. We were able to dictate the way the game was played. Those days have changed, and consumers are in control. Our job as marketers is to facilitate the consumer as they navigate the mix of devices and channels that leads them (hopefully) to a purchase.

Yes, we still have many levers to pull and a mass of data at our fingertips, but making this conceptual shift and removing the barriers to shopping will help foster brand loyalty and repeat purchases, both on your site and in your stores.