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Why Your In-Store Strategy Should Start With Clicks, Not Bricks

Nearly three quarters (71 percent) of retailers use data from third-party partners as their primary digital tool to encourage shoppers to visit a brick-and-mortar store, according to new research published jointly by WBR and Blis, a location marketing company.

Digital strategies can be effective in driving store traffic, but retailers to date are at different stages in their journey toward executing intelligent digital-to-physical plans. Just 2 percent of retailers surveyed by WBR and Blis described their strategy as “excellent,” a far cry from the 63 percent who admit their strategy is either “adequate” or “in need of improvement.”

But with commerce activities increasingly shifting to digital platforms, and especially to consumer’s small-screen smartphones, retailers acknowledge they can better leverage shoppers’ love of clicking and tapping to boost footfall in stores—even if most currently lack an official digital-to-physical strategy, according to the report.

Asked about the digital tools they use to promote trips to stores, most (71 percent) admitted to working with data from third parties. More than half (55 percent) find value in geofencing and beacons.

Not just an add-on, digital strategies can enrich and seamlessly complement the in-store experience, Kelley Coleman, Columbia Sportswear Company’s director of e-commerce operations, said in the report.

“We produced a mobile-compatible digital storefront that not only allows customers to make purchases but also enhanced the in-store purchasing experience with quick access to things like user reviews, ratings and price comparisons,” Coleman explained.

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Some retailers see their location-based strategies as a “starting point” in spreading the word among local customers. For example, someone who receives a digital offer pushed to her smartphone in store likely will tell friends and family in the area so they, too, can partake in the deal, thereby multiplying the effect of the initial retail message. For yet other retailers, simply highlighting store stock levels can be helpful for shoppers, who will appreciate knowing whether their desired products are available.

Anthropologie connects with shoppers through social platforms plus digital tools like geofencing, which has yielded “very positive results,” Jami Long, the fashion retailer’s head of global digital marketing, said in the report. “We include creative messages acknowledging the customer’s location and also include location-based features—such as store locator and specific offers—to attract customers to stores,” Long added.

Location-based strategies, when executed correctly, offer a psychological advantage. “Receiving promotions and recommendations when they are near a store—or even for a product when they are browsing in a store—has a significant impact on changing customers’ perception of a retailer to one of a partner,” the report noted.

Finally, digital messaging at the right point of engagement can be the “call to action” that inspires shoppers to act.

“Location-based digital initiatives are having a big impact before and during the shopping experience,” Ramon Castillo, director of international IT and global planning at Costco, said in the report. “It is now a big driver in getting customers to our stores as we can influence customers with attractive promotions and create a sense of urgency.”