It’s common knowledge that today’s consumer now varies shopping strategies to get the best deals. The days of the strictly brick-and-mortar shopper are dwindling – which is why it is imperative for commercial real estate professionals to help retailers get savvy and build their online shopping audience just as much as their in-store shopper.
Customers still enjoy walking into stores, touching products and interacting with sales associates. No online experience can duplicate in-store human-to-human interaction. But what retailers have discovered is that an in-store shopper who is also an online shopper is a very profitable shopper – and that sales productivity doesn’t just double, but triples…and in some cases, goes to an even higher multiple.
This is why it’s important to explore how developers and commercial real estate leasing professionals of shopping centers can best work with retailers in an online and in-center partnership to drive traffic and sales. Utilizing the omni-channel approach can accomplish this, as the term omni-channel describes connecting in-store with online compatibility for a seamless, cohesive customer service experience. New technologies such as geo-fencing and “push” marketing are designed for precisely this purpose. In fact, Oracle Responsys recently conducted a mobile marketing survey and found that 68% of consumers have enabled push notifications for their mobile apps, with 57% having downloaded apps of their favorite brands.
Why are consumers opting to receive notifications? According to the study, the #1 reason is so that they can stay up to date on special or exclusive offers.
This is great news for retailers as consumers are actively seeking to interact with brands by opting into notifications to get a good deal. In other words, customers want to be sent daily or weekly deals of the retailer’s choosing. To take it a step further, combine these efforts with the approach of geo-fencing. This means that if a customer with a smartphone equipped with push notifications is near a store in a defined geographic area, messages can be sent to the customer letting them know of promotions, which encourages the mobile user to enter the store and take advantage of the available deals.
For example, Neiman Marcus uses geo-fencing technology to learn when VIP customers have entered their stores. Sales associates are then able to view the customer’s previous purchase history and provide a personalized experience for the customer based on verifiable shopping tendencies. This builds a stronger loyalty from the customer and can increase the overall dollar amount spent, as shoppers who feel comfortable and respected are more likely to increase spending. The trick however is not to be invasive with these technologies. Retailers must ensure that engagement with sales associates and apps are a pleasurable and addicting experience – not annoying.
Pleasurable and addicting experiences for consumers primarily revolve around saving money with increased use. Restaurant Bub’s at the Ballpark in San Diego, CA offers a free serving of tater tots to customers who can prove to the serving staff that they “checked in” to the establishment on Facebook. Starbucks occasionally offers Frappuccino “happy hours” in specific locations, providing promotional prices only to those customers who are in range of the location and have the Starbucks app.
Another easy way to combine in-store marketing efforts with an online audience is to offer complimentary WiFi access. This encourages customers to enter a store and get online, blending the two experiences seamlessly. Inviting customers in with something as inexpensive as WiFi access is a welcoming way to encourage your audience to get to know your brand and shop both online and in-store at minimal cost. To limit WiFi overuse by loiterers who don’t intend to buy, retailers can remedy this issue with a WiFi password, or limiting the amount of time WiFi is accessible.
Omni-channel messaging and purchasing channels are a great way to reach online customers and engage in-store shoppers on a higher level. Tim Meissner, a Principal at Meissner Jacquet Commercial Real Estate Services, understands the importance of staying abreast of current trends, especially those that affect the commercial real estate industry. From his experience, Meissner believes that “commercial real estate professionals, such as property managers and leasing agents can utilize trends such as these to their benefit by advising retailers of these strategies, which further demonstrates a commercial real estate professional’s value while delivering desirable results for both retailers and shoppers alike.”