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Web-to-store, an overly narrow vision of cross-channel marketing

Erase the differences between a web channel and in-store banners


On the field, and in the minds of many, cross-channel retailing is often synonymous to the web-to-store, a practice by which a consumer is brought from a website to physically buy at the store. The problem with this definition? Is it two fold. First of all, this vision of cross-channel retailing is very narrow. Ideally, it should include another completely underestimated segment: the web-in-store. Through this, a consumer can have access, inside the store to the same services available online. Secondly, today’s web-to-store strategy is extremely basic. The consumer has to draw the link between the products seen online and those spotted in the store alone. The banners in store, never help to make that connection. That’s what needs to be changed. E-retailers do not have a choice anymore: it is now mandatory to maximize the connections between their various retail channels.



The interaction possibilities between web, mobile or store are almost infinite © Jérôme Rommé - fotolia.com
The interaction possibilities between web, mobile or store are almost infinite © Jérôme Rommé - fotolia.com
Good news, the interaction possibilities between the web, mobile, and store are almost infinite.

Generally, these interactions must respond to a rule that is simple to formulate and difficult to apply: adapt the message addressed to the client depending on the interests he expressed, based his location, which aisle he goes to, and the times of consultation.

Let’s take the example of Mr. Martin. Upon waking up, he rapidly checks his emails on his smartphone.

As he steps into the bathroom, he has just the time to click on the newsletter of his favorite high-tech provider, and look over the technical features of a TV that calls his attention.

It is this signal that the merchant has to grasp to then amplify it.

The priority? Never break the link, as strong as it may be, that he just established with the consumer.

While that new TV may have interested him for while, Mr. Martin may forget about it throughout the day. So it is important to remind him of it.

And this is where the scope of opportunities open up to merchants.

Two hours later, Mr. Martin will be at work, on his desktop. More prone then to take the time to fully look at an offer.

In this context, merchants have to be able to give this internet user the tools for him to look at the product “later.”

Once Mr. Martin gets back to his office desktop, the merchants will be able to propose complementary products to the TV, simplified payment options, but also, that is what we’re talking about today, a range of propositions to incite him to go to the actual store.

This physical visit is essential to client relation.

Let’s not forget that a client who physically picks up an ordered item, often leaves the store with more than one product, and that a multi-channel client is loyal.

“Forecast the fears”

At this stage, the e-retailer’s challenge is to inspire an impulsive purchase by the user while trying to reassure him completely.

He has to predict his fears. Explain to him, for example, that products purchased online can also be exchanged in-store.

Remind him that he can reserve his products online, then get them and pay for them in the store of his choosing.

Of course, all of these sollicitations, these messages and targeted offers, require that the merchant completely know the tastes and rhythms of the consumer.

Meaning that he analyzes the various traces that he has left on all the different channels.

The mobile and web especially.

Technologically, this means deploying a DMP (Data Management Platform) and/or a big data type solution and a unique referencing system, for both the clients and products. A referencing system, that all the channels will be based on.

However, even if this enhances consumer access, by knowing his tastes and rhythms, this web-to-store will only cover half of the cross-channel strategy.

There is the other dimension to focus on: the actual store. Because today, it is completely excluded from the Web.

Once at the store, the consumer wishing to find the same services as those on the merchant’s e-commerce website is distraught.

There is no way to easily compare the products, to look at their technical features, get consumer reviews, receive personalized recommendations, etc.

The systematic lack of wifi in store aisles is a testament to brands’ negligence.

“Erase all differences between the web channel and in-store banners”

However, the technologies to build this web-in-store are not complex.

The QR Code for example. By scanning the tags in store with their smartphones, the clients could access an infinite amount of contextual informations on the products (price, availability, features, source, etc.)

In the same way, sellers equipped with tablets connected to the website or supply system, could instantly advise the client looking for information. Even offer to reserve or have the product delivered to him if it’s not available in-store.

Adding to these existing technologies is the iBeacons revolution that promises to reinvent client relation and in-store experience.

Once again, these practices are not difficult to put in place. But they imply erasing all the differences established until now between the web-channels and physical banners.

Too many brands have promotion and price policies specific to each channel. They have to realize that today, the consumer is looking for a complete coherence between channels.

The varying types of services offered to him are frustrating. As long as companies don’t realize that, then their transition to the cross-channel will lag behind.

Written by Romain Boyer translated by Joséphine Foucher the 14/09/2014
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