Sales from US consumers who consult the Web before making an in-store purchase are now four times larger than online sales, according to a retail marketing report from Forrester.
The report found that cross-channel retail sales—defined as transactions that are touched by a digital medium but not completed through the Internet—are set to reach $1.4 trillion this year and $1.8 trillion by 2018. The jump, the report said, arises from consumers who increasingly pull out their phones to research products in-store. In fact, 68 percent of online adults check the Internet on a smartphone while shopping.
“Retailers would be wise to see this growing trend as the new normal; if this is the first you’ve heard about your customers’ in-store mobile behavior, you’re already late to the game,” said report author Sucharita Mulpuru in a Forrester blog.
Despite heavy reliance on smartphones for research, consumers still shy away from smartphone transactions. Of the 48 percent of smartphone users who shop on their devices, only 24 percent actually purchase using their phone.
Consumers tend to use their phones during the “pre-shop” process, whether for searching for a product’s location, price comparing, or checking inventory. The trend has motivated retailers like Target to create mobile services that focus on customers’ pre-shop needs, rather than just at the point of sale, Mulpuru says. She also notes that such omnichannel efforts can boost cross-channel sales because they meet shoppers’ needs and simultaneously drive in-store sales.
Pre-Shop Experience with Social Media
Like Target, retailer Nordstrom has invested in creating a pre-shop experience for customers. With 4.4 million followers, Nordstrom is the third-most-followed brand on Pinterest, boasting more followers there than on its Facebook and Twitter accounts combined.
Consumers can peruse and re-pin Nordstrom’s products on Pinterest. Once customers arrive in-store, signage highlights popular-on-Pinterest products, adding a hotness factor and driving sales, notes Pinterest’s marketing firm HelloSociety. Sales associates can also reference an iPad app that matches top Pinterest items with items that are currently in stock.
In-Store Experience with iBeacon
New iBeacon technology from Apple could provide another tool for retail marketing strategists looking to boost cross-channel sales. A retailer could use a beacon in-store to trigger location-based features on a nearby customer’s smartphone, such as location-specific coupons, maps, or product suggestions.
Brands are already deploying iBeacon technology to reach out to consumers. When a fan walks into a baseball facility, the Major League Baseball app provides fans with location-specific offers, information about facilities, and videos.
Macy’s and American Eagle Outfitters utilize iBeacon in conjunction with the Shopkick app. When a customer enters a store with the Shopkick app installed on their iPhones, the customer is alerted to deals, discounts, and product recommendations.
Retail content marketing experts note that the best mobile apps focus on creating a dynamic experience for the customer. Sales-driven apps tend to generate high abandonment rates, while content-driven apps tend to build loyalty that ultimately impacts the bottom line, Skyword previously reported.
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