As shoppers return to the high street, how can retailers capitalise on eCommerce behaviours to drive sales?

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted record levels of online shopping and this has fundamentally changed the expectations customers have of retailers. As former Unilever CMO Keith Weed said last April “Post this [pandemic], the amount of online shopping will go down, but the amount of people who have now had an online experience will never go back”.

As UK shops begin to re-open, retailers will have to adapt to these new expectations or risk losing out to those who have.

But how should they do it?

Most of the techniques employed by eCommerce retailers to drive sales have behavioural science at their core. Here are 3 principles we’ve identified as key revenue drivers in eCommerce, which when applied to bricks and mortar retail, will convert customers to buy just as effectively as online:

1.     Offer easy ways to choose

Choice can be overwhelming for a customer and can lead to indecision. Online retailers know this, so they offer tools such as search and online product filtering, allowing users to browse the most suitable options to suit their needs with ease. To simplify the path to purchase in-store and avoid customers going elsewhere, it’s critical that physical retailers offer easy ways to choose as well.

Recently we helped our clients BoConcept bring this benefit into their stores.

BoConcept are a Danish furniture brand with an amazing customisation and co-ordination service—an almost limitless ability to tailor products to your individual taste in terms of style, colour or material. We helped them bring the service to life and make it easy to understand through creative technology—customers can now pick-up a material swatch, swipe it against an RFID tag on the digital experience point in-store and see a range of products in that colour or material. A simple and easy way to narrow and browse your potential preferred options.

Customers like having options given to them, but they can’t be any old thing. They need to be relevant within the context of what they’re already buying. Supermarkets have been doing this for years with clip-strips suggesting add-on products—just think about all the corkscrews and peanuts you’ve seen hanging in the wine aisle—while ecommerce fashion brands will often suggest matching shoes or accessories when customers purchase an outfit. We’ve helped McDonald’s apply this technique to the digital retailer generation with suggestive sell items based on what you tell the crew in Drive thru, in real time. If you order a coffee, for example, the digital menu boards will suggest a McMuffin on the side.

2.     Demonstrate social proof

According to KPMG, 80% of Gen Z and 74% of Millennials say they look to social media to influence their purchases. In eCommerce, driving social proof can be demonstrated through tactics such as drawing attention to user-generated social media content, online reviews or showing how many people added a product to their basket in the last hour. However, these tactics do not need to just live online.

Offering unique in-store experiences that drive social sharing moments that will catch other customers’ attention is one of the most effective ways to drive social proof in retail - creating an impact that drives social proof from real-life through to online and vice versa.

When we developed an in-store activation for the launch of adidas’ iconic Predator boot, every touchpoint was designed to encourage massive social share. From a timed trial game to mutator mirrors and co-creator photo booths, we built a series of highly interactive, digitally-led installations that resulted in over 10k mentions of #predator during the activation period.

Nestlé recently used this technique to drive sales of their cereals. They partnered with the Bee Trust to run a promotion offering free boxes of sunflower seeds with their cereals, ready to be planted at home to help the bee population. Tesco digital 6 sheets were then used to live stream Twitter posts of those who had been planting the seeds at home, prompting other customers to consider and pick up a Nestlé cereal right there and then.

Developing an omnichannel strategy which uses digital channels and content to drive to physical retail stores, as well as using retail stores to create digitally shareable moments will be more important than ever to convince customers back through the door.

3.     Convey scarcity

A 2018 study by Richard Shotton showed that people are 36% more likely to act if they know something is limited.

In an eCommerce setting, the ability to highlight when stock is limited and drive urgency to add to basket is a hugely effective revenue driver. However, conveying scarcity can also be a fantastic way to drive traffic to retail, as well as to convert once customers have arrived.

Meat Pack, a popular trainer store in Guatemala, used their smartphone app to geo-fence competitor retailers that were also selling trainers by the likes of brands such as adidas and recognise when one of their customers was about to enter the competitor. They then triggered a push notification with a special discounted offer, but there was a catch. The discount had a countdown which started at 99% and decreased by a percent with every second that went by. Leading to customers needing to speedily change their mind and run to the Meat Pack store instead as fast as they could.

However even if a retailer doesn’t already have the technology in place to offer such immediacy, limited time partnerships with third parties are a great means of creating scarcity and urgency. Our work for O2 priority in the UK and T-Mobile Tuesdays in the US brings customers time-limited, great offers from retail brands.

Scarcity should be considered as part of an overall, omnichannel strategy to drive customers into store or to ecommerce touchpoints and convert them once they are there.

By keeping behavioural principles at the core of any innovation retailers can respond to the changing expectations of customers, whilst also identifying what doesn’t need to change. By making the most of now retailers can use the current disruption to their advantage. Get innovative ideas into market—no matter how small—then, sustain and nurture their impact into the future.

To identify more ways your brand can create, nurture and accelerate the ideas that will shape the future, download a copy of our ‘If Not Now, When?’ report below.


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