E-Commerce vs. In-Store Sales: How to Reach Connected Shoppers

connected shoppers

For both e-commerce outfits and brick-and-mortar stores, those that can reach connected shoppers in real time will have a distinct advantage.

If you can’t connect to a customer in real time, the sale may be lost.

With Black Friday arriving and an estimated $950 billion waiting to be spent, global CRM leader Salesforce has released its 2015 Connected Shoppers Report. The report used data compiled from a survey of 2,046 adults to provide insights on shopping habits and behavior patterns. According to their Nov 19th announcement, the adults were asked how they use technology when they shop and their current attitudes on shopping in general. Some key findings include:

Online shopping is king. The report found that 88% of shoppers have no plans to visit brick-and-mortar stores to do their holiday shopping. The most cited reasons included crowds, lack of parking, poor service, and the convenience of online shopping.

The struggle to integrate online and brick-and-mortar shopping is real. 31% expect associates to be able to access their previous purchases, but only 10% have had those expectations met. In addition, only 33% of shoppers use retail mobile apps or see a seamless connection between them and the stores themselves.

Shoppers are in control. 48% of shoppers feel they know more about the products they are shopping for than the store’s associates. While 47% do ask for their help, nearly 70% lack confidence in the answers they get. 50% would be more likely to shop at a particular retailer if that retailer made use of current technology to enhance their shopping experience.

Millennials are willing to give it up. 36% of Millennials (ages 18-34), are into location-based technologies and want retailers to know who they are and what they are looking for when they walk into the store. 61% have no problem giving up their personal info and social media details to get better deals.

E-commerce Solutions

For e-commerce, many online retailers have turned to predictive marketing applications designed to present, in real time,  the next-best offer to a customer or push digital incentives, which could include anything from free shipping, price discounts, or digital coupons. Amazon and Netflix, in fact, owe much of their business to the use of recommendation engines.

Such applications of course require the ability to ingest data in real time, and that means online retailers must invest in a real-time data-processing architectures with predictive analytics and integration with customer-relationship management systems.

Playing Catch Up

connected shoppersFor brick-and-mortar stores, it’s a wonder why it’s taking many in-store outlets so long to integrate digital incentives with enhanced in-store customer experience. For years customers have been using their smartphones to price shop even while in the aisle, check different styles, or use maps. Yet many large retailers rely on traditional incentives:  in-store display promotions, printed coupons, discounts for opening a credit-card account, and antiquated “rewards cards” programs. But with smartphones now functioning as wallets and personal shopping assistants, nobody wants to search for an errant rewards card in hopes of getting a discount, if at all.

“Retailers are no longer just competing with the store down the block during the holidays. They’re competing with Amazon,” said Shelley Bransten, senior vice president of retai for  Salesforce. “This new research indicates that brick-and-mortar brands that bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds have the best chance of thriving during the holidays–and beyond.”

There’s good news, however, for brick-and-mortars, in that 95 percent of all sales are captured by stores with a physical presence. “Despite the increasing preference for online shopping, consumers still see the value of “try before you buy,” analytics vendor TIBCO stated . “Having the ability to try on a shirt or experience how a Bluetooth speaker sounds are important determining factors when buying an item.”

Top Three Ways Brick-and-Mortars Can Compete

Real-time coupons: The ability to redeem a  digital coupon inside a store, or another real-time discount or promotion, would likely enhance in-store sales, as Tibco has demonstrated with Germany’s largest drugstore chain, m.drogerie. Tibco’s solution allowed customers to redeem e-coupons at the point-of-sale system in less than 30 seconds. In the first four weeks of deployment, 1.58 million coupon requests were processed.

Enhance the in-store experience: Uniqlo, for example, offers its employees handhelds to check store inventory for customers, and studies have shown that customers frequently want to know whether an item is in stock at a nearby store. Target is another example where employees use handhelds; the company is now eyeing better integration between the handhelds and product inventory as well as offering real-time incentives.

Location-based marketing:  A solid competitive advantage that physical stores have over e-commerce giants is location: sometimes customers do not want to wait for purchases. Consider that the use of “near-me” searches on Google has exploded.  Incentives can easily be pushed over proprietary mobile apps or crow-sourced platforms such as Yelp. For customers who want to avoid crowds, the use of same-day shipping, at a price discount  to eBay or Amazon of course, could incite customers to purchase.

Next Steps

Bottom line? Many businesses need better coordination between their marketing, customer experience, and data divisions, and that starts with understanding connected customers and what they want–whether they are shopping online or inside a store.

The full Salesforce report can be downloaded here.

Related stories:

Real-Time Retail: Why Uniqlo Employees Use Handhelds
Predictive Marketing: Seeking a Formula to Mint Money.
Real-Time Marketing: State of Play
Winning Micro-Moments With Real-Time Marketing

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