While many think that online search is tolling the death knell for brick and mortar stores, online search can help physical retailers drive foot traffic to their stores and influence purchases.
In many ways, online shopping has simplified the way we purchase both essential and non-essential items; from clothing and food to toys and tech. Mobile devices have further helped satisfy our need for instant gratification, especially when we can do a quick online search to find what we want and place orders on the go with just a few simple taps – all without having to input payment information every single time.
But while many think that online search is tolling the death knell for brick and mortar stores, online search is actually helping physical retailers drive foot traffic to their stores and influence purchases.
46% of consumers still prefer shopping in person, even though technology may play a role in the process. In fact, a whopping 87% begin their search for products on digital channels.
This means that there’s an essential need for retailers to use the power of search to their benefit and transform online channels from competition to cooperation.
How do your customers use online search for shopping?
It’s important for retailers to understand the role that search engines play in shopping, whether it’s online or in-store.
By its very nature, online search is all about speed and convenience for the user. When you want to purchase something, find a local business, or look up a quick fact, search engines like Google can deliver results within seconds.
When used specifically for online shopping, consumers can:
- Find and learn information about a product
- Discover different brands who offer the types of products being searched for
- Read ratings and reviews on products before purchasing
- Compare prices between multiple retailers
- Find local retailers who sell the product
In many cases, shoppers will go through the above list in order: they do their product research, then find where to purchase it locally to get it immediately and avoid shipping costs.
Similarly, they may find retailers online and browse their products before they consider stepping foot inside your store. They not only want product information, but also want to learn more about the store’s brand, their prices, their product selection, and most importantly, the availability of the products they want.
Sometimes, shoppers go through this list in reverse: they visit a local retailer, then “showroom” their store while looking up products online to compare prices and read reviews before purchasing. They want to know exactly what they’re getting before they buy it, and they’re doing this research while in store.
Unfortunately, in some cases this also means that shoppers are doing competitor research while in store to see if they can get a better price without the extra hassle.
Let’s look at some ways retailers can leverage search to drive traffic to their stores and convert them into sales.
Create a mobile in-store experience
Given that 7 out of 10 shoppers use mobile devices while in store, it’s clear that customers want to be informed before they make a purchasing decision. Many retailers hold their breath when a shopper pulls out their mobile device, thinking that they’re trying to find a cheaper version of the item right in front of them. They fear missing out on sales and serving as nothing more than a showroom to their customers.
Instead of fighting back against in-store mobile search, embrace it by making mobile part of the shopping experience. This can take a few different forms.
First, many stores include QR codes as part of their store signage. Shoppers can scan the code on their mobile devices to learn more about a product without potentially venturing to a competitor’s website. Plus, this helps the retailer create more value for their in-store experience by catering to the shopper’s needs and making search convenient.
Retailers can also leverage mobile technology by sending in-store coupons to shoppers within a certain perimeter. Customers who sign up to receive text messages from a retailer can be rewarded with coupons while in-store to drive same-visit conversions. In fact, 72% of consumers look for coupons or offers while in-store (that figure jumps to 90% for millennial shoppers).
Leverage Google Ad extensions for local search
Running a Google Ad campaign for your local retail store has a few unique benefits.
For starters, it allows you to bypass organic search results and skyrocket to the top of the page, giving you instant visibility without investing in an ongoing SEO strategy.
Second, Google Ads give you greater flexibility and control over your marketing budget. You’re not locked into flat-rate costs like other advertising outlets (think newspapers, billboards, etc.) and can adjust your spending as you go.
Third, you can optimise your ads to cater to your local audience and only pay when someone clicks on your ad. This helps you make the most of your advertising dollars and ensure that only people in your local area are seeing your ads.
To further amp up your Google Ads efforts, you can download local search extensions that display additional information about your store. For example, the location extension can include your store’s address to save shoppers an extra step in their search.
You can also use the promotion extension to display a specific offer or product price within your ad.
The click-to-text message extension allows shoppers to tap their screen and send you a text message. Many stores use this feature to get text message appointments or answer product-related questions.
Last but not least, you can use local extensions to include things like store hours or high-traffic hours to improve the shopper experience. This way, shoppers can better plan their visit to your store without risking going at a time when you’re closed or too busy.
Giving shoppers everything they need at a glance encourages them to visit your store in person and complete the transaction — and potentially prevent them from heading to a competitor first.
Focus on online ordering for in-store pickup
Many stores have started offering online ordering for in-store pickup to capitalize on the convenience offered by online channels. This is one of the best examples of how physical retailers can embrace online technology without competing for sales.
This method serves several benefits:
First, customers can save time by ordering online instead of browsing through your store to find what they need.
Second, customers feel confident that the items they want will be in stock. If there is a stock issue when trying to fulfill their order, you can reach out directly to them to either substitute an item or save them a trip — both of which bode well for your store image. Many online grocery ordering platforms offer this option when ordering groceries online for same-day in-store pickup.
And lastly, it saves the customer the cost of a local delivery service. These services can significantly add to the bottom line price for the customer, but many still use them because they’re convenient. Buying online and picking up in store can be just as convenient, plus it allows the customer to keep more money in their own pocket.
If customers aren’t aware that you offer this shopping option, use advertising materials in-store as well as on social media to let customers know as they’re shopping that they can try the BOPIS option next time they want to make a purchase with you.
At the end of the day, search is a retailer’s friend, not the enemy. Provided you use search to optimize your in-store experience and customer service, search can help drive sales and retain customers for future purchases.
WANT TO OPTIMIZE YOUR STORE FOR A BETTER CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE?
At CBSF, we help countless retailers both large and small achieve just that. Our expert team of retail design specialists can help you realize a better in-store experience for your customers. Get in touch with us today so we can show you why so many retailers trust us with their retail design goals.