As CMOs and brand marketers struggle with the complex challenge of delivering seamless customers experiences across the online and offline worlds, many of them neglect one critical component: the local brick-and-mortar store.
The evolution of marketing, driven by the rise of digital media and mobile adoption, has given way to the principle of omnichannel—a trendy term that has been added to marketers' vernacular to help define the process of delivering seamless marketing messages across all touchpoints.
Although brands now spend vast amounts of time and budgets on aligning the customer experience online and across devices, many overlook the local brick-and-mortar store—the channel that connects online and offline.
Marketers who fail to see this opportunity are missing the greatest weapon in their marketing arsenal. In fact, local storefronts consistently drive sales and convert potential buyers to active customers. Numerous statistics illustrate the significance of brick-and-mortar stores, but perhaps the most important is this: 92% of retail transactions in the US this year will have occurred in physical retail locations.
Considering the role local retailers can play in an omnichannel marketing strategy and as conduits for delivering effective customer experiences and driving sales in-store, brands need to take advantage of the opportunity provided by local retailers.
Omnichannel's Definition Is Broader Than You Think
The elements that comprise an omnichannel strategy should be those that drive customers to make a purchase. Why, then, are local retailers so often left out of the mix?
In part, it's because marketers believe that digital advertising is the most critical marketing strategy for driving sales. Research from the CMO Council finds that most marketers emphasize search, display, and social media advertising before in-store promotions. Nevertheless, more than 75% of marketers say they haven't measured the impact their digital marketing is having on driving sales.
Brands are losing sales—and customers—because they're unable to measure the ROI of their campaigns and because they fail to align marketing messages and promotions across digital and physical touch points. That's because most brands say they're not aligned with their local retailers.
A robust digital marketing strategy is necessary in today's retail environment, as we know digital touch points drive shoppers into physical retail locations. In fact, the NRF estimates that two-thirds of in-store visits are driven by something a shopper saw online first. That trend will continue to grow in 2017 and beyond.
Having a cohesive marketing strategy between a brand and local retailers will ensure shoppers are effectively driven from online to offline.
Enabling Promotions With a 'Click to Brick' Mindset
For marketers, it's critical to think like a consumer. Too often, potential local buyers walk away frustrated because a product promotion they saw online was not redeemable in-store. In part, that's because of the misalignment between brands and local retailers, particularly those that sell their products through local retail networks.
With a significant number of retail sales driven from an online click to a transaction in-store, brands must align their marketing so it's enabling a fluid "click to brick" customer journey. In part, brand marketers can do so by working more closely with local retailers to ensure campaign assets and messages are consistent and on-brand. Unfortunately, though, many fall short because of the gaps between them and their local partners.
Brands must commit themselves to communicating with partners more effectively while enabling campaigns and promotions that are both fluid and cohesive. If not, brands risk losing customers and, consequently, sales.
Seeing Eye-to-Eye With Local
Despite the considerable growth of e-commerce, American shoppers love buying products from local stores. Yet the underlying disconnect between brands and local retailers is delivering poor customer experiences that tarnish brand loyalties and compromise the bottom line.
Bridging the gap requires marketers to refocus on where and how the customer intends to engage and transact. As brands invest more in personalized and data-driven marketing tools and strategies, marketers will be able to understand unique personas and buying habits. However, that will not account for the inherent chasm between brands and local retailers that deteriorates the customer experience. Some 88% of brands say they don't consider local retail partners to be a critical ally in achieving business outcomes. Marketers must change this mindset and they must come to understand how local retail partners can help them succeed.
It has never been more important for brands and local partners to align and understand how their customer is interested in engaging and transacting. By focusing on customers' purchasing behaviors and aligning the digital and physical elements of an omnichannel strategy, brands can enable a seamless customer experience. For marketers, this means embracing and empowering their retail partner network to become part of the larger marketing mix. They must look to align around the engagements, tools, and technologies that can turn a loosely connected string of campaigns into a holistic experience that delivers a seamless customer experience—and, ultimately, a profit for both the brand and the partner.
It comes down to this: Brick-and-mortar is sorely undervalued in the scope of today's omnichannel campaigns. But, if marketers are to convert potential shoppers into loyal customers—and so increase sales—it's time to not merely address but emphasize the last mile of marketing: the brick-and-mortar store. Your customers and sales depend on it.