Your Business Online | Professional Jeweler

August 29, 2001
Turning Online Browsers Into Offline Shoppers
Retailers must drive online shoppers to their offline stores to prevent losing sales to other offline retailers

According to market-researcher Forrester Research, offline sales influenced by the Internet will outpace online sales by 2005. However, many retailers who sell online as well as offline know their online stores can drive shoppers to their physical stores, but don't know how or why. They have a hard time measuring how much traffic their sites generate for their physical stores and don't know how to drive more online shoppers to their offline stores.

If retailers want to cash in on Internet-inspired offline sales, they need to get to work. According to Forrester, 29% of consumers research products online before buying them offline, but half of them purchase the products from a different retailer than the one they used to research the products.

There are some effective ways for retailers to drive more traffic from the Internet to their bricks-and-mortar stores and avoid losing shoppers to another offline retailer. Here are a few tips:

  • Include real-time data about in-store stock levels on your site. If shoppers want to buy something that day, they want to know it's in stock or they'll go somewhere else
  • Allow shoppers to search for products on your site based on availability
  • Allow customers to order items online and pick them up later at a specified store location. This will provide instant gratification for customers who are in a hurry
  • If you do allow shoppers to reserve items online and pick them up in a store, make it a prominent feature on your Web site
  • Provide detailed product information and guided selling tools, such as product selectors, to help push shoppers to buy
  • Focus on shoppers who live near one of your store locations. One music retailer e-mailed coupons only to site visitors who lived near one of its locations, and it resulted in a 7% offline coupon redemption rate
  • Convince price-sensitive shoppers that a bargain is waiting for them in the store
  • See how you're doing and measure your Web site's impact on your store sales. Try polling offline customers about whether an online visit prompted a store visit.
By focusing on driving offline sales from their Web sites as well as enabling online sales, retailers can give shoppers more reasons to buy from them. Retailers also need to recognize the value of their sites as consumer research resource, says Forrester. By providing simple things such as detailed product descriptions, retailers can bring more potential offline shoppers to their sites and then drive them into their offline stores.

- by Julia M. Duncan