When all we had was the humble high street, retail was still challenging, but at least you knew where your customers were. You could literally see them. Customers were on the high street and, hopefully, walking into your store! For an online retailer, however, the lack of physical presence makes tracking potential customers near impossible. So, what tricks are retailers employing these days to accelerate growth of online stores?
If you already know your customer (by email, or an account they created through your app) then ‘half the battle’, of reaching out to them to encourage more trade, is already won. Today’s social networking platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, also enable online retailers to connect with customers. Online retailers use promoted posts and images/videos to appeal to the desires of their target audience, and strengthen the emotional connection with the brand.
There are lots of studies out there that support the notion that retail trade is being positively impacted by social media, and with Instagram alone having over 500 million active users each month, the potential audience for a retailer using that channel is well worth tapping into!
Improve Your Ranking
If using social media seems like too much hard work, retailers can always use SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to improve their website ranking on the popular search engines, like Google and Bing. SEO was once a simple matter of carefully-selected keywords. Nowadays, the algorithms are much harder to ‘trick’, and careful planning is needed to ensure a successful search engine ranking.
Much like the physical world, online retailers can still scout-out the competition and set themselves head-to-head on advertising and customer engagement activities. The savvy online retailer will ensure their online presence is as strong as possible across all available platforms. In addition, retailers will support their efforts with a range of digital campaigns to reinforce the brand’s key messages.
And finally, even though online retailers can only be connected-to via digital means, it’s becoming increasingly important to have a physical presence too. Not least, the brand-loyal Generation Z consumers are particularly keen on initiatives that benefit the community, and naturally want to see brands they associate with doing the same. Most interestingly, online retailers are now embarking upon the ultimate move into the physical world; they’re opening stores and starting to buy their way in.
With a supply chain that can already cope with inbound stock movement, order consolidation and even last mile delivery, the online retailer doesn’t have much to do to ship products directly to a store instead of a customer.
Over the last five years, we’ve seen physical retailers focusing heavily on developing an omni-channel operation to embrace online. Over the next five years, I’d put money on us seeing a lot more physical stores popping-up from the online-only retailers as they look for new ways to connect with consumers.