Should Physical Stores Use Online Marketing?

The Covid-19 pandemic presented a major challenge for retail. With nowhere to buy groceries and many businesses closing down, some stores had to consider redesigning their business model to ensure they could stay afloat.

Among the retailers that saw an opportunity was online grocery store, Shipt, which expanded its offering to include physical stores. The company leased space in existing retail locations, creating little supermarkets that offered online grocery pick-up and delivery throughout the country.

This strategy gave Shipt an excellent opportunity to experiment with an online marketing tactic called ‘showrooming’—where potential customers browse products online before purchasing them in a physical store. The company learned a lot from trying something new, and as a result, their physical store customer base increased by 67% in just six weeks.

With the resurgence of the economy and the end of the pandemic, now is the perfect time for retailers to look at their business model and experiment with new marketing strategies.

The verdict: try it. But only if you think it will work for you.

Why Should Stores Experiment With Online Marketing?

If you’re reading this, I assume you’re in the retail industry and are considering implementing some form of online marketing into your marketing toolkit. It’s never been more important to have a strong online presence. According to HubSpot Blogs research, only 28% of consumers prefer to research products online before buying them in retail stores. That’s a worrying statistic. Especially since 94% of consumers have gone online to research a product before buying it in a retail store.

In light of this, it’s important to experiment with new online marketing strategies to ensure you’re meeting your customers where they are and enticing them to come back for more.

Here’s a look at the key advantages of implementing an online marketing strategy.

The Opportunity To Experiment

Most big businesses, even those in retail, don’t typically like experimenting with new marketing strategies. Why? Because trying something new usually ends up being a disaster. With so much at stake, executives are risk-averse and guarded when it comes to new strategies. This makes perfect sense when you consider that most retailers have a fairly established business model. Changing it now means overhauling everything from pricing to products to marketing—not an easy or a quick process.

By comparison, when a startup launches a new product or a new marketing strategy, there’s no risk of upsetting the applecart. When a business experiments with new marketing approaches, they typically do so one store at a time. This limits the potential damage and allows executives to take risks.

This is why marketing experimentation today is more common in Startups and SMEs than in Established businesses. Startups and SMEs can take a greater chance on experimental marketing because they’re less risk-averse and better able to absorb the potential loss.

To Gain Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is all the rage today, and for good reason. According to HubSpot Blogs research, 78% of consumers prefer to research products online before buying them in retail stores. But the good news for retailers is that inbound marketing focuses on attracting, engaging and delighting people, which is ideally suited to attracting and retaining customers.

One of the things that makes inbound marketing so effective is that it doesn’t rely on traditional, outbound marketing tactics. Outbound marketing is all about pitching products to people—clothing brands will send you coupons for discounts on items you buy in stores, for example. Inbound marketing focuses on drawing in customers organically through content that is helpful, interesting and relevant to the target audience.

Because of this, inbound marketing attempts to position the brand as a source of valuable, helpful information. This kind of positioning allows brands to build trust with customers and create desire, among other things.

Attracting, Retaining, And Engaging Customers

Customers today are more important than ever before, which means retailers have to adapt their approach to attract, retain and engage them. The good news is that inbound marketing helps with this. When a brand or business becomes a reliable, valuable resource for its customers, they gain credibility and authority. This in turn, can lead to higher lifetime value and loyalty from customers.

To be a valuable resource, a brand or business must provide customers with helpful, valuable information they need. If a business provides excellent service and products, but doesn’t provide any value, the business isn’t going to be very trustworthy. For example, a business that guarantees a certain product release date isn’t providing value to customers if that date doesn’t arrive on time. In those cases, the customer will likely go elsewhere for their needs.

To provide value, businesses must ask themselves questions like:

What information do my customers need to make informed decisions?

Informed customers are the lifeblood of any business. Without them, there’s no point in running a retail store. If you want customers to make purchase decisions, you have to provide them with as much information as possible.

This information could take many forms. It could be factual data about the product (like the ingredients), or it could be subjective opinions (like whether or not the product is in fact, good quality). Whatever the case, customers need to have all the information they need to make an informed decision.

If a business doesn’t already have all this information, they can easily find it on the web. This, in turn, makes it easier for customers to find the answers to their questions. When this occurs, the customer is no longer searching for the answers, the business is.

How Can I Make My Customers Feel Special?

Customer experience is now at the forefront of every business. Even companies that usually have fairly good service will see it as an opportunity to step it up a gear and provide an exceptional customer experience. To do this, businesses need to look at every aspect of their business, from the way they handle customer service all the way through to their website and social media.

Firstly, customers should experience good quality and consistency throughout their whole shopping journey. Even if a business provides exceptional quality at every stage of their customer’s journey, there’s a chance something could go wrong along the way. When this happens, the customer will feel let down and seek out alternative businesses or brands that they feel will perform better.

Secondly, customers should feel special and recognized when they visit a business. Whether this is through a dedicated customer service team who goes above and beyond to make sure each customer feels listened to and valued, or through a special offer for new customers, or even just a handwritten note.

The Importance Of SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t going anywhere, and it’s becoming more important than ever before. According to HubSpot Blogs research, 75% of consumers prefer to research products online before buying them in retail stores. This is a substantial increase from the 28% who preferred to do the same prior to the pandemic. As more consumers turn to the internet to find the information they need, SEO has never been more important.

SEO can help businesses draw in customers looking for their products via search engines like Google and Bing. When a customer searches for a product, the business’ website should appear as a result.

To ensure they appear in relevant results, businesses must optimize their websites for search engines. This entails taking into consideration both the structure and content of a website in order to appear in the right place when a customer searches for a product. It also entails taking the time to build the website, ensuring it’s mobile-friendly and fully optimized.

Increased Sales

Retail businesses that experiment with online marketing saw a significant uptick in sales. Shipt, for example, saw an increase of 67% in their physical store sales after they implemented their online strategy. So, if you’re considering an online strategy for your business, it might be worth considering how you can put it into practice.