How Digital Marketing and In-Store Customer Service Must Work Together

In 2014, Google teamed up with a couple of research firms to look at the impact of the digital world on in-store shopping. They conducted surveys to focus on the subject from two different angles so they could get both quantitative insights and qualitative insights.

We think that one of the best ways to sum up the impact of “online” to “in-store” is to consider the world wide web like the air you breathe. It’s there all the time and unless you stop to think about it, it can go unnoticed. Check out these numbers:

  • 87 percent of shoppers look for information before visiting a store,
  • 79 percent of shoppers look for information while visiting a store, and
  • 35 percent of shoppers look for information after visiting a store.

In other words, information available on the Internet is an integral part of the shopping experience before, during, and after a trip to the corner store. We suspect that the “after” figure is significantly lower because a good number of those shoppers buy in the stores they visit, so they don’t need to do any more research.

If we’re right about that, it should motivate you to redouble your digital marketing and in-store customer service efforts; you don’t want your potential buyers to be included in that 35 percent who are still looking for information after they’ve been in your store!

Prospects’ Online Habits

The next important take-away comes from where consumers are going online to get information about your products and services. That breaks down like this:

  • Search engines – 75 percent
  • Online-only retailer sites or apps – 71 percent
  • Physical store sites or apps – 70 percent
  • Social networks – 39 percent
  • Online video – 36 percent
  • Coupons/Daily Deals – 35 percent

This immediately puts the spot light on the importance of your search engine optimization (SEO). The good news for brick-and-mortar stores is that consumers are just as likely to use your website or app as they are to use an online retailer’s website or app. Therefore, not only does your website need to be SEOed, it needs to have the information your buyers are looking for. Further, this information needs to be easily accessed from mobile devices. (We doubt that anyone is walking through your store using their laptops.)

Combining Online with In-Store

Above, we mentioned the importance of in-store customer service and the role it plays in tandem with your digital marketing. These are two puzzle pieces and they both have to be in place to make the sale and get the kind of customer loyalty that leads to high customer lifetime values. Google’s survey really exposes this fact and how widespread the problem is.

Some two out of three shoppers who tried to find information within a store said that they couldn’t find it. This made 43 percent of the shoppers frustrated, 41 percent likely to shop somewhere else, and 22 percent less likely to return to the retailer who failed to provide good in-store information. So if you have a strong online presence, but don’t match that with a good in-store customer experience, you’ve wasted a lot of your digital marketing efforts.

What Shoppers Want to Know

Some of the information shoppers are looking for that is critical to their decision making, is very basic, but vitally important.

For example, are your store hours easily discoverable online? You need to have these on your website, but equally important is to be sure that you’ve claimed your Google business listing and given Google up-to-date accurate information. Also, there are scores of local business listings throughout the Internet and these must be accurate. Various paid and free services will help you here, including:

Another element of this is to have enough information about your store on the Internet that prospects will know that you’re a local source for what they are shopping for. Many retailers will want to upload their inventory to various shopping engines.

Finally, Your Overall Strategy Should be Something Like This

  • Optimize website and digital marketing to get prospects into your store and ready to make a purchase.
  • Provide sufficient in-store support to answer last-minute questions and lead prospects to making the purchase that best fits their needs.

Remember, if you make your customers go back to their smartphones while they are in your store, there’s a high probability that you’ve lost the sale that day and the customer forever.

If you would like to see the full report from Google, you’ll find it here.