Hey You! Don’t Be So Sensitive!

by Cindy Hanauer

Cindy HanauerDoesn’t it seem like the world is becoming hyper-sensitive, nowadays?  Instagram is dominated by the “INSTA-FAMOUS”, Facebook has turned into “VAGUEBOOK”, and Twitter has become a cyber tweetstorm between “TWARS” and “TWEEPS” (Twitter War Grounds + Twitter Peeps). And between it all, organizations like ours are trying to find neutral, positive ground to promote our brand, engage our customers and display compelling products.  Facepalm!

But according to the latest statistics, social media remains a strong-arm in influencing purchases (72%), but still has a long way to go in locking down the actual purchase (<20%). This means that the execution of the buy-in 80% of cases measured still happens through the wheels on the truck, the display space in the building and the boots on the ground. So, where do the two cohabitate, and how can an organization utilize both “bricks and clicks” to optimize their future revenue?

Here are some of my ideas, and I’d love to hear your ideas, as well!

Optimizing Revenue- Online and Offline

There are two important connections in the online/offline realm that are imperative to know:

  1. Showrooming- This is where a customer examines a product in the brick-and-mortar setting, and then ultimately makes the purchase, itself, online. This usually occurs when a customer wants to feel and touch an item, but then goes online to compare pricing and/or have the item drop shipped. 
  1. Webrooming- This is the opposite of showrooming, where the customer first learns and investigates a product online, and then travels to the actual store to purchase it. Webrooming usually occurs when a customer comes armed with information from online searches but wants to secure the product immediately. Customers also “webroom” if they want to avoid shipping fees and/or find in-store purchases easier to return.   

So, what does this mean?  It means that the debate whether a customer prefers online or offline purchasing is dead. In fact, today's customers want both, and for very different reasons. Amazon figured this out early – but don’t worry- there’s plenty of runway for others to develop their own engagement strategy, as well.

  1. Forget “Omni-Channel”. Forget “Multi-Channel”.  Think “Seamless”. 

Only one thing matters to the customer, and that’s that the customer remains totally in charge of the purchase process from discovery to delivery. It doesn’t matter if the customer is visiting the store or sitting on the couch- they want one frictionless buying experience. Remember one of my previous articles, [1] If I Could Read Your Mind, where the florist stated, “It's not uncommon for me to only be able to order flowers at 5AM or 11PM, when I’m able to concentrate outside of business hours…..in PJs and slippers! This is the seamless shopping desires of today’s customer. 

  1. Keep the Ball Inbounds

The key to managing both channels is to keep the ball inbounds. That is, both sales methods – online and offline- must make the customer “sticky” throughout the entire purchasing process, instead of breaking rank in-between and visiting one company’s online site, and then going to another establishment for the offline purchase.

  1. For best results, online offerings and in-store offerings should match. This prevents a “break” in the purchasing cycle, where a customer sees a product online, but then cannot find the same item in the store. If there are items online that cannot be found in-store, adding verbiage such as, “Online Only”, next to those items is optimal.
  2. Know your audience. What makes them tick? The online real estate should be used to “tell the story” and the in-store collateral should be used to promote the company’s website as a 24/7 solution. Quite simply, promote online capabilities offline and online capabilities online. Include your social media accounts in both places, as well!  
  3. Encourage in-store customers to participate online by building selfie stations, promoting online design contests, and more. During one of my Holland tours last year, a wholesaler had TV screens placed in the facility in strategic locations, with a continuous loop showing all of the great educational information that can be found on the company website.  

While businesses often assign online marketers as a separate entity, varying or different messaging between online and offline selling will confuse the customer, make a company appear inconsistent and generate a frustrating marketing result. Care should be taken to synchronize the gap between online and offline collateral, so customers can navigate seamlessly on both sides, with a wide bridge in the middle. By doing this, customers will become “stickier” and perceive your business in a modern and efficient way.          

[1] If I Could Read Your Mind; Cindy Hanauer; WF&FSA network; April 2019

Follow-up Questions

  1. What have been some of your company’s success stories to bridge the gap between online and offline?

  2. What is a wholesaler’s biggest barrier in creating a seamless 360-degree shopping experience?

  3. Do you track channel-shifting between online and offline? If so, how?                           



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