Once consumers overs the world caught on to the love of online shopping, it became a common practice for buyers to research online and purchase offline (ROPO). And ROPO has been the common practice all these years. However, the past few years have seen a Reverse ROPO, i.e. when the buyer searches for product information in the store, where he can touch the product, see it live in action and consult the selection with the seller, and then make the purchase online. As an example, a buyer looking at buying a washing machine visits a store, analyzes several models of washing machines, asks for the opinion of the seller and returns home to buy the selected model of washing machine online. Sometimes buyers do their research in a store and make their selection, and then wait for a good online discount sale to purchase the product at a much lower cost.

As many buyers still prefer seeing and touching the merchandise they buy, local stores essentially become ‘showrooms’ for online shoppers. Even though buyers today have so many channels to gather information and to make the purchase, many still want to kick the tires before buying. Visiting stores to see products before buying them online also tends to correlate with age. The older the shopper, the more likely they are to visit stores first to see products, while younger shoppers are more comfortable buying items online. This suggests that there’s some room for improvement across e-commerce sites, including the way items are displayed, product descriptions and even customer service interaction.

For marketers, this means they should be able to engage their target audience both offline and online and engage them to drive sales for both channels. For example, if the typical reverse ROPO buyer has already browsed the physical store and then went online to add that product to their basket, how can marketers maximize this opportunity? Perhaps the online store can recommend another product to complement that purchase or offer relevant content like recipes, make-up tips etc to show off the product’s versatility and do a bit of cross-marketing. For more emotive, high engagement items such as these, a branded video probably wouldn’t hurt your conversion rate. Advances in 3D imaging and virtual reality could be possible game-changers down the line, however, attracting more shoppers to buy online without seeing products first-hand in a physical store.

It remains critical for retailers to provide a high-touch in-store experience. One strategy could be turning physical retail space into showrooms where customers can try and test products and generally get to know the product better before making the final purchase online. Furniture and home furnishings brands have already been using this technique, and now apparel brands are considering too.

In a completely dynamic and fluid buying environment today, the buyer journey continues to evolve as the path to purchase increasingly crosses between physical and online worlds. According to John Burbank, president of strategic initiatives at Nielsen, “Now is the time to create omnichannel experiences for consumers who are actively using both digital and physical platforms to research and purchase, as consumers increasingly don’t make a distinction between the two.”

Consumers also jump between stores, desktops and mobile devices, making retailers work at building seamless omnichannel experiences to best serve these changing behaviours. In physical stores, this translates to stores with high-touch and informative product displays. Having knowledgeable store associates capable of addressing shopper questions, or equipping staff with technology to help them, is equally important. Retailers need to be proactive about things like matching prices, offering free home delivery for large, bulky items and having a digital store to help win the final sale regardless of channel.

Whether online or offline, retailers and brands must be on their game, providing a compelling experience for shoppers to interact with products. Get into the places where people are researching, such as mobile apps, customer and affiliate blogs, forums, social media channels, display ads, price comparison sites etc. Simple techniques like Tiny URL’s, QR codes or Snap Tags ensure that the person can get more product information easily. Leverage good old point of sale literature and price points that show why they should buy from you then and there and the fact you are competitive on price. 

Finally, the most effective strategy is to build a direct relationship with the customer through direct marketing techniques combining big data with advanced analytical processes, as well as the use of marketing automation to accompany the customer throughout the purchasing cycle.

About Zuci

Zuci is revolutionizing the way software platforms are engineered with the help of patented AI and deep learning models. Learn more about Zuci at www.zucisystems.com.

About the author

Keerthika is the Marketing Executive at Zuci. She specializes in Marketing and evangelizing the brand Zuci to the outside world. Check her out at Keerthika V