February 4, 2020
Digital Marketing with a Brick and Mortar Experience
Marketing, like all endeavors, evolves over time. The mom and pop stores and the Sears catalog gave way to downtown shopping districts and, later, shopping malls. Many brands adapted, transitioning from small footprints and mail order, to large showcase stores. Then came big box outlets, a discount version of mall department stores where you could buy just about anything.
In the early 2000s, as more consumers logged onto the internet and stayed, retailers and marketers saw something new coming over the horizon, but it would have to be built largely from scratch. Consumers would need to be taught how to search for what they wanted and how to use the software that allowed them to buy those products and services. Thanks, in large part, to Apple and Microsoft, that hurdle was leapt over fast and easy.
Less than a decade after the first iPhone was released, nearly everyone was carrying a smartphone and shopping malls across the country were closing up as major U.S. department store brands struggled to stay afloat or closed forever. It became crystal clear that digital marketing was no longer an add-on or a luxury option. It was fast becoming the consumer go-to, which meant brands and businesses had to adapt or die.
The question is: how to stand out in a crowded and noisy internet marketplace? Some of the answer to that lies in applying a good, old fashioned brick-and-mortar approach to consumer service.
Successful merchants are realize that experience is still the key to success. It doesn’t matter if the business is in a building or on the web, customers will come back if they have a good experience – and they will leave if they don’t. If it’s easy to find items, the prices are clearly marked, and the item is clearly described, consumers are happy. If they can’t navigate the site, or if the item description leaves them with more questions than answers, it’s easy for them to click away.
Another winning strategy is adding a personal touch. One of the lost experiences of shopping at a mom and pop store is entering a place where everyone knows your name, where the consumer is greeted warmly by people they recognize who clearly appreciate their business. Thanks to smart search and big data engines, online merchants have the ability to instantly customize every shopper’s experience, whether it’s curating the product options based on previous visits or connecting the consumer with a personal shopper to help answer their questions.
Cross-promotion is another tactic that worked in stores and will work online. Leveraging social media and similar products offerings, online stores can connect customers with their brand in a way that is non-intrusive and often welcomed, even if the customer isn’t in the market at that time.
In the end, nothing trumps experience. Even if the customer is shopping on price, they want to find the lowest price or the best value quickly. Ease of use, combined with a friendly, personal greeting, can bring the brick-and-mortar experience online, increasing customer loyalty in the process in an age when being spoiled for options makes it challenging to keep them coming back.