By: Steve Hauber, Division President, Valassis Local Solutions
Published Monday, Oct 24, 2016
Shopping has evolved beyond the traditional interactions between local store owner and customer. Today, store owner/customer relationships are virtual as well as personal. Consumers have the means to shop anywhere and as a result, customer loyalty is hard to come by. Local mom-and-pop stores compete with national chains, and both fight tough competition from the digital world. They battle viral word of mouth; the call for smarter inventory; and the demand for personalization. They must also respond to the need for an ever-changing, engaging presence across multiple digital and physical channels. As consumers demand an omni-channel experience — a seamless crossover between physical and digital channels — physical and digital shopping become “phygital.”
In order to reach today’s shoppers, you need a marketing strategy that engages them across multiple channels; this can be a challenge. Online stores lack the local convenience and hands-on experience of physical stores. Physical stores, on the other hand, not only need to find their place within the local community, but also within the digital one.
But there are steps you can take to attract, engage and retain consumers, whether you have a brick-and-mortar or digital store.
Consumers respond to a relevant, personalized shopping experience. According to MyBuys 7th Annual Consumer Personalization Survey1, 53 percent of respondents say they would purchase more from retailers who suggest products based on browsing or buying behavior. The first step to personalization is to identify touchpoints, or where your customers interact with you. This could be a walk-in customer, a social media comment, a phone call, a website click, a special offer or anything in between. Once you’ve identified these touchpoints, track them, analyze them, and learn which ones engage the most customers. Then, begin your outreach. Data gathering is typically easier on the digital level, which is why it’s imperative for physical stores to leverage digital channels.
Online/Email: Online and email are a great place to start personalizing your message. According to HubSpot2, personalized emails see a 14 percent higher click-through rate and personalized web experiences see an average 20 percent increase in sales. Use customer location, shopping history, cart abandonment and more to cross-sell/upsell, offer content geared toward customer preferences and send emails with hyper-personalized offers and incentives.
Mobile apps: Among those companies with more than 10 employees that saw a decrease in customer loyalty over the past year, 66 percent of them do not have a mobile app.3
As with websites, mobile apps allow you to capture user data to create offers and send them via push notification. In addition, location data can be utilized to create offers targeted toward a specific local store, helping to create that seamless experience.
Social media: Once you know which platforms and content type perform best, you’re ready to create personalized content. Facebook gives you the option to upload your own customer and prospect lists and, at the very minimum, lets you target your audience. An integrated campaign across multiple social media touchpoints will enable your customers to engage with you in a variety of ways. You can also track performance, then offer more personalization during and after the campaign.
Print: Don’t overlook the power of print. Direct mail ranks as one of the top five media influencers on purchases among adults.4 Postcards with hyper-targeted offers will catch consumer attention. Ads in local magazines or circulars containing coupons or discounts will invite customers through your door or to your website. And URLs or QR codes can bridge the gap between the physical and digital world.
Customer service: One of the quickest ways to lose a customer is to provide poor service. Good customer service goes beyond in-store personnel. Customers should have access to you from anywhere. Brick-and-mortar stores have an advantage with face-to-face opportunities, but must also utilize omni-channel customer service and provide points of contact through phone, email, social media, Facetime or Skype, review sites or live chat.
In-store customers practice showrooming, or shop in your store to view merchandise personally, then buy product online. Online customers practice webrooming, or researching merchandise online before purchasing in-store. Reduce webrooming and showrooming by creating an omni-channel experience that compels customers to purchase.
Engagement: Encourage Facebook likes, app downloads, online reviews and more. Employ signage, word-of-mouth, banner ads, print ads or whatever means necessary for users to find and engage with you.
Value: If you’re in a niche market, then you already offer something consumers can’t find elsewhere. If not, then customers will be looking at price and other purchase incentives such as:
Visual content: According to LEWIS,6 image-rich content gets 94 percent more views than content without relevant images. Online shoppers can’t shop hands-on, so provide professional-quality images, 360 degree views, videos and a mobile-optimized site. Design an app with an augmented-reality feature that allows consumers to see how furniture or fixtures would look in their home, enable them to “try on” an article of clothing or pair of shoes, or even find the right shade of makeup.
Loyalty programs: Reward customers with coupons, free products, discounts and more and you’ll certainly increase their desire to return.
As technology changes, so will consumer shopping habits. Creating a compelling, omni-channel experience will help you adapt to current (and future) retail trends and remain the store of choice for your valuable customers.
1 MyBuys, “7th Annual Consumer Personalization Survey” 2015;
2 HubSpot, “Mastering the Art of Omni-Channel Personalization”, 2016;
3 Apptentive, “Feedback and Loyalty on the Mobile Frontier,” 2016;
4 Prosper Insights & Analytics, MBI, Jan. 2016. Adults 18+. Influence averaged across 9 measured purchased categories;
5 Walker Sands, “2016 Future of Retail Study”, 2016;
6 Lewis, “The State of Visual Communications in 2016”