To remain competitive, retailers are striving to offer their customers a far better multi-channel shopping experience. Customers want to be able to complement their traditional bricks-and-mortar retail shopping, with using websites and also buying direct. They want the flexibility to order at home, at work or on the move via laptop, phone, mobile or smartphone. To quote the Martini advert, they want to be able to shop, “any time, any place, anywhere”.
Multi-channel shoppers are important for a number of reasons. Firstly this is a group that will grow with the increased penetration of mobile devices, improved broadband connectivity and speed, and improved ease of online transactions. Also, as this report from Deloitte points out, multichannel shoppers spend more per transaction than in-store only shoppers. These digitally influenced shoppers accounted for 39% of value of non-food transactions over a three month period, compared with only 28% of volume.
Perhaps this group buys higher end items and maybe they are more affluent, sophisticated shoppers compared with their in-store counterparts. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is they account for a disproportionate amount of value and this will increase as the number of multichannel shoppers grow.
Therefore as retailers are striving to offer a seamless service in order to create a more effective customer experience for multichannel shoppers, the brands being sold also need to get in on the action themselves. Multichannel shoppers conduct a lot of online research at a very early stage in the buying process. And at the heart of this research and evaluation phase online advocacy plays a key role in influencing purchase decision making. We call this evaluation phase the “Zero moment of truth” and we believe this has become a crucial stage at which to engage and influence your customers.
The same Deloitte study showed that multichannel shoppers involve much higherlevels of research activity than in-store shoppers. For example nearly three quartersof multichannel shoppers used price comparison websites compared with 44% of all adults. When conducting research they are much more inclined to use social networks, look at online news and be influenced by review forums, and take advantage of voucher code websites. They are also more likely to use blogs, games and sharing of multimedia content to influence their decision.
There are now a raft of online interactions that will further influence buying decisions and they are becoming increasingly important. For example Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert community, which hosts blogs, news, forums, price comparisons and other money saving tips, was recently sold to moneysupermarket.com for £87m. Blogs and review sites are giving buyers access to a customer voice which has the power to overturn decisions that may be have previously been made by advertising or on price alone. It would seem we are now being influenced more by what our shopping peers are saying online than statements made by brands on websites and in adverts.
Which begs the question – how can we better harness what is being said about our brands on the internet, identify and engage the key influencers and start to generate positive online advocacy? How can brands get into the minds of consumers at the “zero moment of truth” when they are learning about the product, sharing experiences among themselves and evaluating purchase or repurchase. Even if the purchase is made in a traditional shop, the background work will undoubtedly have been done online. And the lines are becoming increasingly blurred. For example there are many smartphone apps that can now scan barcodes of products in-store and then offer the best online price comparisons.
This is where the battle for brand supremacy is now going to be won or lost and this is where brands need to exercise influence, not in a heavy handed way, but through advocacy in the earned media space. There are a huge number of initiatives that you can deploy to maximise dissemination of the good things customers are saying about you. It can range from monitoring what is being said and where; to identifying key influencers and engaging them through private online communities for co-creation. You can spread your message further and faster by getting key influencers to invite others to participate and share information. Study the dissemination of your messaging, find out which are the important nodes of communication. To continually improve the process you also need to set up a social CRM application to be able to measure ROI and review activity.
If you want to do this in a more structured way and speed up the way you leverage your online advocacy – then take a look at our Accelerated Customer Advocacy Model
As multi-channel shopping replaces traditional on-site shopping, online advocacy is likely to replace traditional advertising and marketing methods in how consumers are influenced before the point of purchase. Now is the time to give your online advocacy a vital kick-start.