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The In-Store Imperative for Brands in the Digital Age

Cus­tomer is no longer a good enough word to describe the many indi­vid­u­als in rela­tion­ship with a brand. We’ve called them fans and audi­ences, col­lab­o­ra­tors and par­tic­i­pants, vis­i­tors and users, try­ing to cap­ture the nature of cus­tomer inter­ac­tions in the dig­i­tal age. But a sin­gle word may never be enough, because touch points and oppor­tu­ni­ties for engage­ment keep mul­ti­ply­ing. The once lin­ear sales fun­nel is now an evolv­ing, cir­cu­lar process with active and informed men and women enter­ing through var­i­ous channels.

For exam­ple, the cus­tomer that sets foot in a store today is a very dif­fer­ent ani­mal from the one that walked through the door more than a decade ago. Chances are the cus­tomer knows a good deal about your prod­uct before approach­ing a sales­per­son. The sales­per­son needs to under­stand the cus­tomer well enough to make broader rec­om­men­da­tions (for exam­ple, sug­gest­ing new design­ers or acces­sories to a fash­ion­ista). We no longer live in a product-driven world. The customer-centric sell is per­son­al­ized to unique and spe­cific cus­tomer lifestyles.

What Dig­i­tal Started, Mobile Is Dri­ving In-Store

Since the advent of email and e-commerce, dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies have rev­o­lu­tion­ized mar­ket­ing and sales. Now, mobile Web and apps across dif­fer­ent devices are tak­ing the rev­o­lu­tion fur­ther than we ever imag­ined. The impact of mobile mar­ket­ing and cus­tomer engage­ment on the direct dig­i­tal chan­nel was rel­a­tively easy to grasp. As more and more peo­ple pur­chased smart­phones and tablets, com­pa­nies spot­ted the oppor­tu­nity to be in their cus­tomers’ pock­ets and brief­cases. But the impact on sales and con­ver­sion at stores has been some­what more sur­pris­ing: A Deloitte study finds that peo­ple using mobile in store “influ­ence $593 bil­lion in retail store sales.” Not only that, they are 40 per­cent more likely to con­vert in store than peo­ple who don’t use mobile devices while shopping.

Mobile is blur­ring the lines between sales and mar­ket­ing. How can the two best engage the mobile con­sumer both within mobile chan­nels and in store?

Ready or Not, Mobile Is on the Front Lines of Sales

As the sales and con­ver­sion process becomes more inti­mately tied to mobile chan­nels, it is trans­form­ing the roles and meth­ods of both sales and mar­ket­ing depart­ments. Mar­ket­ing and sales have over­lapped, and the two must work in tan­dem to deliver the kind of seam­less customer-centric jour­ney that leads to both short-term sales and long-term loyalty.

Front-line employ­ees are essen­tial to cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, ground­ing the dig­i­tal promise in per­sonal inter­ac­tions. Mobile and in-store mar­ket­ing and sales have an oppor­tu­nity to col­lab­o­rate in all new ways. Com­merce data released by Wal­greens reveals,

… cus­tomers who engage with Wal­greens in per­son, online and via mobile apps spend six times more than those who only visit stores. Even those who just use the apps before vis­it­ing stores and not Wal­greens web­sites gen­er­ate four times the sales than store-only customers.

Mobile can trans­form your sales strate­gies, free­ing you to focus on the cus­tomer, not the prod­uct. Embrace holis­tic cus­tomer engage­ment, and gain more oppor­tu­ni­ties to cap­ture atten­tion, inter­act, influ­ence con­ver­sions, and encour­age loy­alty. Mobile allows sales to meet cus­tomers where they are, bridg­ing chan­nels and deliv­er­ing hand-picked con­tent per­son­al­ized to the indi­vid­ual. These trust-building mobile expe­ri­ences can boost buyer readi­ness both online and in-store.

Mobile Is Mak­ing Sales More Customer-Centric Than Ever

Mobile is help­ing more peo­ple move from delib­er­a­tion to deci­sion, pur­chas­ing, or sub­scrib­ing right on their device. This is par­tially because mobile chan­nels sim­ply pro­vide more ways to buy and easy access to prod­uct infor­ma­tion, reviews, and rec­om­men­da­tions. Our mobile phones are our com­pan­ions. Not too long ago, a close friend might be at our side as we shop, or our go-to source for prod­uct rec­om­men­da­tions. Now we look at our smart­phones for reviews, prod­uct his­to­ries, brand sto­ries, and other moti­va­tors beyond price point.

Increased options, acces­si­bil­ity, and con­ve­nience are a boon for the con­sumer, mak­ing mobile tech­nolo­gies inher­ently customer-centric. But how is the shift­ing con­ver­sion fun­nel mak­ing sales more customer-centric? Com­pa­nies may see faster con­ver­sion rates, or they may wit­ness more vis­i­tors leav­ing them for a com­peti­tor. Your brand might watch app down­loads spike, only to see no impact on prod­uct sales. Or maybe social inte­gra­tions have your cus­tomers shar­ing brand con­tent like crazy, and first-time con­ver­sions are on the rise.

Mobile Gives Brands a Direct, 24/7 Line to the Customer

In the par­tic­u­larly inten­sive B2B sales process, it has been esti­mated that 35 per­cent of rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ time is “spent hav­ing actual con­ver­sa­tions with buy­ers.” Those con­ver­sa­tions make up the crit­i­cal work of cul­ti­vat­ing rela­tion­ships and clos­ing sales. Yet reps are spend­ing 65 per­cent of their time just try­ing to get to those conversations.

Mobile sets the con­ver­sa­tion in motion, and keeps it open and ongo­ing. “Nearly 70 per­cent of con­sumers go online before they shop in stores, and 36 per­cent con­nect to the Web while in stores.” In effect, brands are allowed to go shop­ping with their cus­tomers, like a trusted friend. The con­ver­sa­tion is more inter­ac­tive and collaborative.

The Customer-Centric Sell Is Worth the Challenge

The customer-centric sell requires us to inno­vate beyond product-specific sales strate­gies. Mobile has upended the tra­di­tional sales fun­nel, mak­ing the cus­tomer jour­ney less pre­dictable. This is forc­ing com­pa­nies to pay closer atten­tion to every inch of the wind­ing fun­nel, patch­ing up leaks and lis­ten­ing to cus­tomers’ needs and desires in the moment. Cov­eted sales maxims—and com­fort­able ways of selling—have to take a back­seat to the customer’s voice. Deliver per­son­al­ized, rel­e­vant con­tent through dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences, sales con­ver­sa­tions, and every­thing in between.

This post originally appeared on the Adobe Digital Marketing blog.

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