Rapid advancements in innovative technologies are changing the game when it comes to bricks-and-mortar retail.
Smart-thinking companies are increasingly using technology – from VR to click-and-collect and everything in between – to drive customers to their physical stores and improve footfall, connecting the online to the offline world in the process.
Here are four ways retailers are using technology to improve footfall:
You probably have a general SEO strategy targeting highly searched for keywords, which is all well and good. It will help improve your online visibility and it is something you should definitely keep doing. But these kind of keyword campaigns are fairly non-specific when it comes to location.
Which is a problem, because ‘near-me’ searches have doubled since 2015 (i.e. ‘building supplies near me’). The reality is that consumers are increasingly undertaking location-specific searches when they search for products and services online.
So build this knowledge into your SEO campaigns; choosing to select local keywords and incorporating them into your website copy and across your marketing activities. A good rule of thumb is to follow this model:
- Your city/region, plus a relevant keyword
This will help you compete much better for local SEO, and you should start showing up in searches. The result? More customers will be aware that you exist – and if you have a decent online listing they will be able to find your store easily, and contact you if they want more information.
What does social media have to do with driving physical footfall? Lots, it turns out. Harnessing social media is a great, effective way to convert customers from online to offline, using some well-worn marketing techniques: contests and competitions.
In the world of social media, contests and competitions have been transformed and are an incredibly useful way of driving conversation, brand awareness and getting people into your stores.
There are lots of examples of how retailers have done this to great effect, but the world really is your oyster. Do a few test campaigns with your social media presence as the anchor.
If you’re a fashion retailer, why not ask people to go into your stores with their friends and take a selfie in your clothes, before sending the pic to you on social? Pick winners at random, or choose the top three selfies and dish out some gift vouchers or offer an in-store experience.
This is bread and butter stuff, but a good, fully-functioning store locator is really crucial to ensuring people know where your stores are, what they sell, when they are open, and how they can get there.
You’ve probably come across some frustrating store locators in your time. Many are inaccurate, don’t work properly, and fail to account for things like restricted opening hours, during national holidays, for example.
As well as a store locator, a product availability tool is also a good idea. Allowing customers to check if you have certain products available to buy in specific stores. This is a good way to get them through the door. Google research shows that 6 in 10 internet users check whether a product is available in a local store before they visit it.
Omni-channel marketing is about delivering your customers a seamless, faultless experience no matter how they are shopping, online or offline.
For Vincent Naigeon, managing director of BRIDGE, the best companies are close to reaching true omni-channel retailing via smarter integration of technology platforms.
“One key feature for mobile-only customers is making sure online store details are accurate and contain the information they need to make a decision to visit a retail outlet. We see store locators as an important part of any omni-channel solution,” he says.
“Retailers can use technology to ensure a seamless journey between different marketing channels – this is important as there is often a gap between offline and online media. Mobile can help to close this gap but it requires investment in the website to ensure the web experience is ‘mobile first’ and aligns with the messaging in other marketing channels.”
It’s fair to say that the death of physical retail is a gross exaggeration. Those retailers who leverage technology – from store locators to mobile-first websites – will be the first to benefit, as they effectively bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds.