The year-on-year growth of online shopping had been strong for years, but events in 2020 drove a dramatic growth in ecommerce sales. With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the trend, more and more retailers started investigating the option of building online operations to run alongside their traditional brick-and-mortar premises.
While selling offline and online is a good way to reach more customers and adapt your business to changing consumer habits, it brings with it a great many organizational and logistical issues that need to be dealt with. Treating your offline and online stores as two separate things will limit your growth and damage your brand.
In this article, we’ll cover how to coordinate the two parts of your store, touching upon everything from your online and offline marketing to your use of sales data.
Setting up a cross-channel marketing strategy
Your online and offline stores may technically be distinct, but they’re really two parts of the same store. Due to this, every part of your online and offline marketing must be kept in check using an overarching strategy and set of brand guidelines.
If you already have a marketing plan that doesn’t go that far, you should take this opportunity to start over with something more expansive. Taking a plan devised solely for offline retail and applying it to the newest part of your business isn’t going to give you the best results. If you can forge something more fitting, you can build a more cohesive brand.
Start by concentrating on your long-term business goals, then decide what marketing goals are going to help you achieve those. Such a goal could be generating awareness of both sides of your store, increasing engagement, or driving actionable traffic.
Multichannel marketing vs omnichannel marketing
When you’re considering a marketing strategy that covers online and offline stores, you need to consider whether you should take a multichannel or omnichannel approach.
Omnichannel marketing is designed to deliver a consistent shopping experience across all channels. Shoppers should be able to move seamlessly between different channels and see content that’s specifically targeted at them.
Whereas multichannel marketing treats each channel independently — while they are all part of the same strategy it will be a less coherent experience for shoppers.
For example, with an omnichannel approach, a shopper might view an item online but not purchase it. They’d then see targeted ads for that product on their social media feeds and receive an email about that or similar products. They could get an email or push notification from the store’s app telling them which stores close to their location have the product in stock so they can check it out in person.
Successfully implementing an omnichannel strategy requires you to gather a lot of data on your customers so you can really target them with personalized, highly relevant marketing. But this is the kind of experience that shoppers are expecting in 2020. They are constantly bombarded with advertisements, so a consistent message that reaches them across several channels is going to remind them of your store and persuade them to purchase.
Changing consumer trends
If you’re trying to coordinate your marketing for an online and offline store in a post-COVID world, it’s necessary to understand how consumer trends have changed. After all, the impact of widespread lockdowns and quarantine restrictions was profound, and the effects will endure long after the pandemic is a mere historical footnote.
More people are now shopping online, but the categories that have seen the biggest increases are groceries, household supplies, and DIY equipment. At the same time, uncertainty about the future has made many people more careful about spending their money on non-essentials like clothing. Complicating matters further, disruptions to supply chains (and the resulting delayed deliveries) have encouraged many shoppers to try different retailers and new brands.
Largely coinciding with the pandemic, there has also been an increase in environmental concerns that are leading a lot of shoppers to look for brands that are more eco friendly and have clear sustainable values. 87% of people will purchase from a company that advocates for an issue they care about, while 76% will refuse to buy from a company that supports an issue that goes against their beliefs.
Now, too, many markets are moving towards subscription-based models: in fact, while the subscription economy is thought to be worth around $275 billion right now, by 2025 it’s estimated it will reach $1.5 trillion. Ecommerce-based subscription services such as Chargebee are enabling businesses to offer subscriptions to physical and/or digital products using flexible pricing models, helping them to increase customer loyalty and drive more recurring revenue.
How to Coordinate Your Offline And Online Store
To support your online and offline marketing, it’s important that all other aspects of the business are coordinated and work together. Shoppers need to experience a seamless transition between your online store and offline store.
Understand your target personas
Given the recent changes to consumer shopping habits, it’s important to reassess yourtarget personas. Understand how their situation, lifestyle, and interests might have changed. Will they be working from home, spending less time going out? Will they have more concerns about health and safety? Understand how your existing personas for your offline store will be behaving online now.
Do some customer surveys or ask for feedback to get an idea of the sites and social networks they use online, what articles and blogs they’re interested in, where they shop online, and what digital communication channels they use. This should give you a good starting point for creating your target personas that will help coordinate your marketing strategy for your online and offline store.
Work out what your competitors are doing
You should also do some thorough competitor research, find a few businesses that are a similar size as well as a couple of bigger businesses with both online and offline stores. Look at their websites and their stores, sign up for their marketing communications and follow their social media accounts. You want to understand who they are targeting, how they communicate with them, and what works so that you can incorporate this into your strategy.
Choose your marketing channels
Next, you need to pick your marketing channels. You need to be focused on the channels that are going to help you reach your target audience. And it’s also important to pick a reasonable number. If you don’t have the staff to manage it, don’t sign up to every single social media platform, set up multiple advertising campaigns, and send out daily emails.
Pick three or four digital marketing channels such as Facebook, Instagram, email, and PPC, and offline channels such as flyers or adverts to use in stores.
Adapt your marketing message
Come up with a few messages that you want to convey with your channels to ensure that you are giving a coherent message when people encounter your store through online or offline marketing.
These messages should be focused on building a connection with your target audience, providing the flexibility to shop online or offline, and reassuring them that you’re open, available, and operating safely. You want to build a community around your brand and develop a relationship with your customers both online and offline.
Coordinate your inventory
Starting with your inventory you need a system in place that allows you to sync your online and offline stock. Many retailers will have a wider range available online, but it’s beneficial to allow shoppers to check if items that they’ve seen online are available in your store. Some shoppers will prefer to always try on or view a product in person before they buy. It’s also a good idea to encourage shoppers in your store to look online if they can’t find the exact item or it’s not on the shop shelf.
The best way to handle online and offline inventory management is by using a point-of-sale system in-store that integrates with the ecommerce side of your business, so that every time a sale is made online or offline it’s recorded on the same system and your stock levels are adjusted. Wise Small Business has amazing guide on choosing best pos system for your business.
Track your cross-channel marketing
It’s important to track and analyze your online and offline marketing strategy. Decide on some key performance indicators that will indicate whether the tactics you’re using are helping you to meet your targets and goals. For example, if you’re trying to increase awareness you might track website traffic, social media following, and engagement, or newsletter sign-ups. You can use these metrics to assess your progress and adjust your strategy on a continual basis.
The key to coordinating your online and offline stores is to treat them as one business and ensure that they provide a coherent impression and experience to all shoppers. Plan out your online and offline marketing strategy together and put in place systems that will integrate both parts of the business so that it’s easy to keep on top of everything.