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GUEST COMMENT Building the bridge between online and offline

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Today’s retailers have the power to connect and interact with consumers wherever they are via a range of channels, both online and offline. The rise of digital has transformed the retail landscape, with 83% of adults now owning a connected device to browse the internet, send email, interact on social media, and shop for products online.

 

But while the retail ecommerce market is expected to reach almost £94 billion this year, online sales still account for less than a fifth of all retailing in the UK. Food shopping in particular bucks the digital trend with online responsible for just 5% of total sales. Disregarding online retailers with no brick and mortar shops, department stores see the highest online sales as a proportion of their total retailing at 18%, followed by clothing and footwear brands at 17%.

 

What these figures fail to illustrate, however, is what influenced the decision to purchase. While consumers may start their journey on one channel, the path to purchase is both digital and physical, as consumers often go back and forth between the two before making a transaction. Bridging the gap between online and offline, and delivering a seamless experience across all channels and devices is therefore crucial.

 

Marketing in challenging times

 

Delivering a consistent and engaging experience can be tricky in a multi-device landscape where consumers are using mobiles, tablets, desktop, and watching TV – often at the same time. There is an urgent need for retailers to embrace digital transformation, and failure to keep up has been cited as a reason for the decline of predominantly brick and mortar stores, such as Toys R Us.

Research shows UK consumers expect to be able to combine online and offline shopping. While 81% believe brick and mortar shops are vital to the shopping experience, 82% use their smartphones to research the products prior to in-store purchase, and 30% of shoppers use brick and mortar shops to try goods such as clothing, before buying the product online.

 

This situation has made things complicated for marketers who need to allocate budgets effectively between channels to achieve success in a highly competitive climate. Brands can no longer assume the customer journey started where the transaction took place, and disregard influences along the way. To do so risks missing out on vital chances to reach potential consumers and capitalise on key moments of opportunity. To achieve marketing success, today’s retailers need to connect the online-offline dots to see what exactly is driving sales. This means piecing disparate online, device and offline point of sale data together for a more comprehensive, end-to-end view of the consumer journey that bridges digital and in-store experiences.

 

Unravelling the consumer journey

 

Technology has created a huge opportunity to leverage data to make smarter decisions. Many marketers are turning to multi-touch attribution to get a more complete, people-based view of the consumer journey across digital and offline marketing channels, as well as the ability to measure and optimise their marketing and media tactics based on their online and offline impact.

 

Multi-touch attribution enables retailers to move beyond measuring behaviour in separate channel-based silos. It creates a privacy compliant persistent ID that links a person to their devices and browsers for a de-duplicated view of their cross-channel, multi-device journeys. More advanced solutions can even integrate offline addressable marketing touchpoints (e.g. direct mail, catalogues) and conversion events (e.g. in-store sales, call centre transactions) at the user-level to produce even more accurate views of the consumer journey across all channels. Leveraging this more holistic view for multi-touch attribution ensures credit is more accurately assigned to all the marketing touchpoints that influenced desired digital or offline sales. Retailers can then use these insights to allocate spend to the best performing channels and tactics, and better optimise the omnichannel consumer experience.

 

Following the implementation of GDPR, which gives consumers greater power to opt in or out of a brand’s messaging, retailers may have access to a reduced volume of consumer data to use for multi-touch attribution. But the data retailers do possess reflects the behaviours of their most engaged customers and prospects, who have specifically opted in to receive their communications, making it as, if not more valuable than the vast data pools they had before.

 

In today’s landscape, retailers must be open to digitally transforming their business if they are to get – and stay – ahead. But equally, they need to consider how consumers are interacting with brick and mortar stores. To succeed in these changing times, retailers must combine online and offline marketing strategies and consider the effects of all influences on the path to purchase. By obtaining and connecting data across all online and offline touchpoints, marketers can effectively allocate budgets, optimise campaigns, and make informed cross-channel marketing decisions.

 



Author: Manu Mathew, co-founder & chief executive officer of Visual IQ, a Nielsen Company

Image credit: Fotolia

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