Fast and furious shifts in the retail world leave piles of confusing information in their wake. It seems that every week there is a new term or acronym to describe this consumer behavior or those buying habits, as surveys and studies put a microscope to every aspect of consumer behavior.
In this two-part series, we want to break down some of the newest research with the goal of helping showroom owners, managers and sales staff understand how a new multichannel buying cycle impacts customer habits and what showrooms can do to stay relevant online and off.
The “Research Online/Buy Offline (ROBO)” Economy
Good news for brick-and-mortar! The vast majority of retail sales are still happening in-store, but consumers are doing most of their research online before committing to an in-person visit.
Shopping has become a multichannel experience, where an online exploration phase ends with an offline purchase. The buying cycle is one that retailers must take advantage of by optimizing their web presence, attracting customers to the store, collecting reviews, then leveraging those reviews to reach new customers.
Why are people starting the buying process online?
The benefit of online research (to the consumer) is that they no longer have to go from store to store before deciding where they’ll find the best service, prices and after-care. Another important benefit to online research is easy access to reviews from other consumers who have tried a product or service.
Impress online first, then in person
When consumers research brick-and-mortar stores online, they want complete information. For the retailer, this means putting more than just an address and phone number on the website and on local business listings. High-quality photos and 360 virtual tours can push a “maybe” to a “yes.”
Consumers don’t want mystery when they are choosing where to shop; show them what they are in for, then wow them with extras and great customer service once they are in the door.
What channels can you use to communicate?
As many as possible! That said, managing a website, 5 or 6 social media accounts, email campaigns and text messaging can be a lot to handle, so focus on the ones you see results from.
Having too many channels can lead to one or two being forgotten; you don’t want to find out people have been trying to reach you on Instagram, but you are only checking it once a month! Ultimately, it should be easy for customers to reach you at their convenience- by phone, email and text.
Note: No matter how you reach people, be sure your site is 100% mobile friendly. A bad mobile site will send consumers to the competitor in seconds, especially when prices are competitive.
Lower the in-store pressure
When ROBO consumers come into the store, you can assume they know what they want. In fact, over half of people who end up in a retail store armed with online research will make a purchase and visit within 12 hours of doing the search. It is up to the sales staff, in that case, to make the visit enjoyable and easy.
Invest in your online presence
Customers are not as sensitive to advertising as they once were. Think about it- we’re bombarded with ads. We literally get followed around by them as we navigate the internet; they pop up out of nowhere and are easily dismissed. These days, consumers look at price and reviews.
Some surveys note that only 3 percent of respondents were convinced to choose one business over another because of an ad.
What does this mean for you? Make sure you’re coming up first in search engine results when people are looking for local kitchen and bath showrooms. That may mean paying for placement, but you might find a lower-budget option viable. Keeping your website updated with fresh content (like a blog, profiles and great photos) puts your business ahead; also, don’t neglect local business listing.