The ways consumers use the Internet for shopping continue to evolve. One day the name of the game is researching and shopping online, and then buying online. The next day it’s shopping and researching in the local store, then buying online. Then there's another type of online retail competition: The phenomenon of “web-influenced retail sales” (Internet Retailer) where consumers do a lot of research and browsing online, and then buy... in their local stores.
In a 2010 forecast, Forrester Research noted that multi-channel commerce (CMS WiRE) was growing much faster than online retail sales, and estimated its growth to be five times the size of the e-commerce market by 2015. More important, Forrester estimated that online- and web-influenced offline sales combined would amount to 53 percent of a total of $1.409 billion worth of sales in 2014.
Why Do Customers Shop And Research ON-line And Then Buy OFF-line?
-- Instant Gratification. According to a 2011 Forrester study, a majority of customers (51 percent) said they want to buy in their local store because they want to have the item immediately, i.e. not wait five days for a delivery.
-- The Hands-On Shopping Experience Is Important. The second highest reason people shop at their local store (42 percent - Forrester) is because it’s important to see, hold, and try an item before buying it. First-hand experience also diminishes the likelihood of return, which would double shipping costs if ordered online.
-- Save Time, Legwork, Money And Energy. Savings come from checking and finding the item online quickly and conveniently online, then going directly to the local store to get it; and also save on shipping costs.
How Do Local Retailers Benefit From Offline Shopping?
First, of course, the opportunity to make the sale. (Obvious). Second, the opportunity for a knowledgeable salesperson to connect between foot traffic and sales. Third, extra sales, impulse buying, and selling peripheral items add up. Forrester reported 45 percent of shoppers said they bought extra items once they were in a store, spending an additional $154, on average, on incremental purchases.
How Can Retailers Leverage Their Online Presence To Meet “Web-Influenced Offline Sales”?
-- Capitalize on the latest technological improvements and innovations, including, of course, all the facets of web development.
-- Use pricing and competitive intelligence and monitoring to the fullest advantage.
-- Develop a reliable, consistent online presence.
-- Insure that your product information is fresh and complete for Google searches.
-- Establish and put forward your company personality as well as your products.
-- Persuade the consumer of the benefits of shopping with you.
-- Practice continuity and consistency of information.
-- Carry through promotions and service through the whole shopping experience.
Technological advances have empowered consumers and given them the ability to make the Internet work for them. Whether an online, or multi-channel retailer, you have to do the same.
A large number of consumers base their buying decisions on extensive online research, then action. The winners will be those who understand how customers play the game. Govern your own fate. Continue to monitor your competition’s prices, promotions, products and behavior -- and proceed accordingly.
Related Upstream Commerce Blog Posts:
“How Smartphones Are Ringing Up Sales For Online Retailers” -- describing how consumers go into stores, look at the products, use their smartphones for information, and then buy online.
“8 Reasons Consumers Like To Shop Online” -- why consumers said they like to shop (and buy) online -- including staying in their pajamas; saving costs of going out; and avoiding impulse buys.