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GUEST COMMENT From clicks to bricks: driving footfall back in-store

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We have come of age. The ecommerce industry has reached a stage of relative maturity in many markets across the globe and in much of Western Europe led in large part by the United Kingdom. Growth in the retail sector is largely driven by consumers shopping more frequently and spending more money via the web. In 2014, British consumers are set to spend £45 billion online, according to research that RetailMeNot commissioned recently with the Centre for Retail Research, and for the first time the average shopper is set to spend more than £1,000 per year online. In addition, the rising prominence of mobile within the retail cycle means shoppers are increasingly using smartphones and tablets during their shopping journey, providing a new channel for retailers to advertise and sell through.

While ecommerce sales have a positive outlook, the latest results from the British Retail Consortium Retail Sales Index show that in March of this year, bricks and mortar transactions fell by the sharpest rate since April 2013 and they have fallen again by 1.7% in the month of July. As in-store sales are still the primary revenue earners for UK retailers, a slump in these sales means driving people in-store should still be the number one priority for high street stores. In an increasingly competitive multichannel market, retailers need to be more inventive in targeting consumers if they want to drive footfall and sales in store.

Bringing in-store online, and back again

In the early days of ecommerce, retailers kept their high street and online teams in siloes. Recently, however, retailers have combined their internal online and in-store units to focus on an omnichannel, integrated approach to sales. Understanding the interplay between online and in-store consumer behaviours is key.

In the UK, more than two thirds of consumers (67%) now shop on the Internet, and this has completely changed how they view retailers as well as their definition of brand loyalty. Online, consumers shop with speed and ease, and they demand the ability to use technology to find the best deals and pay quickly.

Retailers can mirror this experience in-store by taking advantage of new technologies, such as loaning out tablets in brick-and-mortar stores to give shoppers the ability to read reviews from other customers, order products that aren’t available, check out wish lists created by friends and family, and more. By offering digital services in-store, and making these services relevant within the shopping trip, retailers can offer consumers a smooth, seamless experience across all commerce channels, allowing consumers to benefit from the best of both worlds.

Attracting voucher vultures

Today’s ultra-competitive retail landscape means brands are under more pressure than ever to provide consumers with good deals and incentives to purchase. As a result, many have forged partnerships with trusted marketing partners so that they can gain access to a large audience of consumers and drive sales.

By targeting shoppers with attractive offers and money-saving promotional codes, high street retailers can drive footfall in-store and reach new audiences. Interestingly, a study from Forrester on the Impact of Online Coupons suggests that the use of promotional codes can actually encourage consumers to spend a higher amount than they may otherwise in a single purchase. This indicates that shoppers are more likely to spend more if they feel that they are getting a good deal thanks to a voucher.

By promoting offers through trusted partners, retailers can draw people into stores while simultaneously building customer loyalty. Consumers are more likely to engage with a brand and drive a higher volume of sales if they feel certain the brand is offering them relevant and desirable offers on a regular basis.

A beacon of hope

With 55% of UK consumers now using smartphones, according to the recent m-commerce study from the Centre for Retail Research for RetailMeNot, mobile shopping is on the rise. British mobile shoppers will account for nearly one in every five pounds (18%) spend on the internet in the UK this year, for a total value of £8bn. While this is good news for retailers with mobile optimised websites, it also opens up the issue of ‘showrooming’ in-store. Some online retailers are able to undercut their high street rivals and the sale goes online while the consumer is standing right there in-store! As consumers increasingly treat bricks and mortar stores like showrooms to inform online purchases, the mobile solution is also the answer to High Street’s woes.

When it comes to re-engaging customers who may otherwise shop elsewhere, smartphones represent a real opportunity to target mobile users in store and to transform them into buyers.’s recent Future of Online Retail Report reveals that geofencing, a GPS technology which allows to push notifications of nearby offers or promotions to shopper’s smartphones, is today the most popular in-store technology for consumers, and over a third of consumers (38%) say that they would like to receive targeted offers to their phone whilst shopping. For retailers this is a huge opportunity to push consumers to make a purchase there and then, and reverse ‘showrooming.’

The key to success in retail today is removing friction from the shopping process by bridging the gap between online and offline channels. By adopting techniques that are relevant across both channels, retailers provide consumers with a consistent experience and perception of the brand. Making shopping feel seamless not only encourages shoppers in store, but builds brands loyalty, which ultimately help to drive in-store sales.

Giulio Montemagno is SVP of International at RetailMeNot

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