Building a great online following should be backed up with a flurry sales in the real world.
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Online or offline? Neither, actually. Scrap the ‘or’ and replace it with ‘and’. And get rid of the question mark too. Contrary to popular belief, offline shopping isn’t dead. Far from it. Granted, it may be having its fair share or trouble, but reports of its untimely demise are greatly exaggerated.
In fact, the newest, most interesting and potentially lucrative marketing strategy is online to offline, or O2O. It’s about getting customers to visit and buy from physical retail stores, driven in the first place by an activity that happened online. So how to bring your customers from the digital realm to the physical one?
From Instagram to a sale
So, how do you go from Instagram to a physical sale? How do you convince a customer to log off from the digital world, leap out of their armchair and head on down to their local bricks-and-mortar store?
Well, with something quite traditional, quite tried-and-tested: the in-store event, but publicised on social media. As an example, look at what clothing retailer J. Crew did earlier this year with Instagram Stories, in a great example of how the on and offline retail worlds can be brought together.
It placed a Story that had text reading: ‘LA...swipe up’, specifically targeting its message at Los Angeles shoppers. When those shoppers did indeed swipe, they saw a promotion for a pre-sale event taking place at their local J. Crew store. All they had to do to get tickets for the event was to visit a landing page - which they did, for the event was a sell out.
Build on and offline consistency
To bring customers offline, you need to invest significantly in your branding. It is crucial that customers enjoy the same brand flavour whatever world they are experiencing. This means ensuring consistent branding, logo design and colours, and consistent tone of voice, across both your online and offline activity.
Customers like familiarity as it helps brands build trust and long-term loyalty, so ensure your brand messaging is true-to-type across all your marketing activities.
Customers appreciate consistency on and offline
If you don’t have a store locator, get one now
If you have a growing number of stores, a store locator platform will be a great help in supporting the management of an online store listing directory. And it will help drive customers offline too.
In this way, a store locator acts a conversion tool, as well as providing shoppers with useful information.
Work with social influencers
Influencer marketing - broadly defined as brands working with online personalities who have significant social media followings - can be difficult to get right, but pull it off and it can really help to drive sales.
In the same way that J. Crew used Instagram to promote a physical event, you can build relationships with social media influencers and popular bloggers who will help promote your company, your products and events.
Think about it - if you sell trainers, you could send a free pair to a trainer fanatic on Instagram. In return, they share a picture of them donning the sneakers with their thousands of followers, giving you some great brand exposure in the process.
Invest in services like click-and-collect
A service like click-and-collect - where a customer orders and pays for something online but picks it up in a physical store - is emerging as a popular alternative to parcel delivery. Deliveries can get misplaced, operators can give unspecific delivery windows (‘between 8am and 6pm’, anyone?), it can be expensive and inconvenient.
Click-and-collect allows customers to pick up their items when it’s convenient to them, avoiding delivery costs in the process. And you never know, click-and-collect could even result in some extra sales, as the customer may purchase something else they need when they’re in your store for pick-up.
Click and collect has been a huge success
Transform experiential marketing with virtual reality
Another way to use digital technology to drive physical footfall is to invest in virtual reality. A dazzling VR experience - companies like Supercar Hire could do a driving a supercar experience or a travel company could let users look out from the Eiffel Tower - can really help you give your customers a rich, unforgettable way to experience your products and services.
If you try experiential marketing, ditch the bottles of water and pencils and get some VR headsets instead - your customers will thank you for it.
The future of marketing is very likely to be anchored around the online to offline model, creating an omnichannel retail experience. Viewing online and offline as channels to be brought together, rather than kept separate, can really revolutionise the way you do business.