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How to bridge the gap between online and offline shopping

How to bridge the gap between online and offline shopping Andy O'Dell

Today's mobile shopping landscape is fragmented with consumers juggling a blizzard of shopping-related apps with narrow functionality. However, as consumers increasingly rely on their smartphones to research products, find deals, buy gifts, and shop for themselves, merchants need to fine tune their mobile strategies to make sure that they are providing a valuable consumer experience that succeeds in growing loyalty and revenue. Otherwise, they risk losing existing customers and prospects to the competition. 

Here are five requirements for any merchant looking to effectively target mobile shoppers to drive engagement and loyalty.

Be relevant

Relevancy is critical for mobile adoption. If a shopping app consistently pushes relevant deals, offers, coupons, and other content, a consumer is more inclined to use it regularly because it provides a tangible value to them. Without it, there is no ongoing incentive for a consumer to return.

To make relevancy possible, merchants need technology that can help them better understand the consumer's preferences. Such technology requires algorithms that can filter through both passive and active consumer data -- including location, past purchases, content they've interacted with, and barcodes they have scanned -- to identify which content is most relevant. For instance, if a consumer regularly makes a purchase when he or she receives a 20 percent off coupon, then the merchant knows that this is the person's trigger for engagement and can tailor communications accordingly.

By providing relevant content to the consumer, merchants can create a more meaningful mobile shopping experience while extending the purchasing power of the app.

Don't overdo daily deals

While daily deals can serve both consumers and merchants in ways that are sustainable and beneficial, there is a lot of fatigue around this concept from all sides. For merchants, the deals can serve as consumer acquisition tools, yet on the other side, they are left with no means to create a loyal customer or otherwise provide additional value after the transaction. For consumers, they benefit from a great value on a particular product or service, but they become desensitized since they are regularly bombarded with deals -- many of which are not relevant to them.

Barraging consumers with daily deals they won't use results in consumers tuning out the merchant. Relevant deals that are based on a consumer's preferences, culled from that person's shopping patterns, will generate better results and cultivate increased loyalty.

Simplify the point of sale

For a mobile shopper today, the point of sale is cumbersome and complicated, sometimes requiring six or seven separate apps -- such as loyalty cards, gift cards, and digital coupons -- just to complete the sale. That's enough to deter would-be mobile shoppers who simply want to complete a transaction.

Merchants are also struggling with this dilemma of knowing that more and more consumers want to pay with mobile phones. Retailers are becoming paralyzed by the number of options available at the point of sale, which can create a fractured landscape filled with technical complexities.

It's easy to forget that consumers are not going to make purchasing decisions based on the merchant's POS.  Instead, they're looking for mobile shopping apps that provide additional value to them over using plastic cards and cash at the register. As such, a merchant's app should be easy to use, flexible, and open -- to create a seamless transaction -- but also provide an added bonus with a direct link to the consumer's loyalty card, gift card, coupons, etc.

Take advantage of location

According to Pew Internet & American Life Project, 74 percent of U.S. consumers use location-based services on their smartphone and 46 percent of mobile phone users use location-based services. This provides ample opportunity for merchants to hone in on customers -- when they're nearby -- to drive interaction. For consumers, this links back to relevancy: "I'm here. What deals are available?"

By pushing relevant content to consumers when they are in-store or walking nearby, retailers can increase the chances for a sale while improving brand awareness and loyalty.

Blur the line between offline and online shopping

While mobile shopping is growing in popularity, there is still a divide between offline and online shopping. Some retailers, for instance, offer better deals online so consumers may visit stores and then make purchases online to score the lower price. This highlights an important point for merchants: Consumers are always looking for value (in this case, cost savings).

Imagine a mobile shopping app that acts as an integral tool while a consumer is in a store, letting the consumer know what's on sale, for example, or offering an incentive promotion to encourage a sale. This app can also notify consumers when they're near a merchant's store and perhaps offer a discount code if they go in and shop.

By providing consumers with an app that delivers value to them through a blending of the online and offline shopping experiences, merchants will drive both mobile adoption and brand loyalty.

As merchants increasingly try to engage consumers by developing mobile apps that can grow customer loyalty and revenue, consumers in turn want meaningful mobile transactions that deliver tangible value. By knowing the needs, wants, and limitations of consumers, merchants can create a win-win mobile shopping experience. 

Andy O'Dell is cofounder and chief commercial officer at Clutch.

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"Businessman jumping a gap between two bridge parts" image via Shutterstock.

As chief commercial officer, Andy is responsible for the commercial strategy and development of an organization. He brings with him a proven track record of identifying, cultivating and maintaining new business partnerships, opportunities and...

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