Guest Column | August 23, 2019

Creating A Unified Commerce Shopping Experience With An O2O Strategy

By Meyar Sheik, Kibo

In today’s unified commerce environment, a consumer’s path to purchase frequently crisscrosses between online and offline channels until the consumer completes their purchase. The retail world has named this shopping trend O2O, or online-to-offline shopping. And, by now the evidence is overwhelming that shoppers prefer to use online tools to research offline purchases, as more than half of all retail sales are influenced by online interactions according to Forrester. As well, upon arriving at the physical store, shoppers like to remain connected to the wealth of product information available online via their phones, as 84 percent of smartphone shoppers utilize their phones at the physical store according to recent research by Google.

Some of the main factors contributing to the increase of O2O are shoppers’ increased expectation for convenience and the need for retailers to meet their consumers where they are through a variety of physical and digital channels. As a result, retailers have adapted to O2O behavior by placing a greater focus on services that facilitate an O2O experience, such as universal inventory visibility — meaning access to inventory across the entire chain, rather than a single store — and BOPIS. However, to ensure shoppers fully know about a retailer’s O2O capabilities, retailers must thoroughly integrate online-to-offline messaging in online promotions to showcase their options to serve shoppers in a variety of ways online; not just with a store pickup option on the product page.

Drive O2O Strategy Through Online Consultative Sales Promotions

The beauty of O2O is that it allows retailers to further engage their shoppers through multiple touchpoints. As such, retailers should utilize O2O tactics to encourage online shoppers to make store visits to evaluate goods prior to purchase. Additionally, they should equip store associates with the online tools to source exactly the right items from across the retailer’s entire inventory selection. A great use case for this kind of O2O strategy in action would be a department story promoting in-store services on its eCommerce site. These services could range from style guide or gift scout services, for finding presents, to personal shopping assistants. Another potential strategy that retailers are seeing success with is to feature seasonal promotions — such as seasonal makeup consultation events —on the home page. Through these strategies, retailers are combining online and offline efforts to drive further engagement with the shopper.

Convince Cart Abandoners To Complete Orders … Anywhere They Want To

Today’s shopping journey is more connected than ever before; however, it can seem fragmented if a retailer does not offer shoppers the flexibility to flow from one channel to the next or, similarly, the ability to purchase their product in a channel of their choice. For example, while a shopper may start their shopping journey online, they might bookmark it to a wish list then journey to the store to touch and feel the product before circling back to their online profile to complete the purchase. Retailers who miss the opportunity to follow and engage their shopper along this journey risk losing profit to cart abandoners. However, with an O2O strategy, retailers can further encourage their shoppers to complete the purchase.

As an example, though a triggered email or SMS push notification intended to convince shopping cart abandoners to complete online purchases may seem an odd location for offline promotion, retailers who engage with the consumer throughout their shopping journey recognize that winning the sale, wherever it occurs, is what matters. Consequently, giving hesitant online shoppers multiple avenues for completing their purchase boosts the odds that they’ll find the right fulfillment fit. And, as we’ve seen, according to our recent Consumer Trends survey, 76 percent of shoppers said that having multiple fulfillment options positively influenced their purchasing decisions.

Mind The Offline Online Marketing Opportunities

Offline SEO refers to activities on properties other than the flagship eCommerce site that affect search engine ranking – and the concept is just as valid for O2O marketing. In an O2O environment, retailers should not only monitor social media mentions, but listings on Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google Reviews. Prompt and thoughtful replies to criticism and amplification of positive feedback (with permission) via other marketing channels heighten perceptions that shoppers’ voices matter; it shows retailers are willing to adapt their offline offerings in response to online feedback. As well, paid placements on social media and review platforms offering discounts or VIP experiences to store visitors can reach shoppers as they weigh where to shop next.

Staying Top Of Mind With O2O

In general, O2O refers to retailer’s ability to engage the shopper with fluidity across channels. The more options consumers have to interact with a brand, the more likely they are to convert, to remain loyal, and to tell their friends. To effectively carry out an O2O strategy, retailers today need to ensure that they have the customer data infrastructure and platform microservices in place to support this unified commerce approach; because the opportunity to orchestrate the shopper experience could happen anywhere. From physical stores, to kiosks in airports to shopping links on Instagram, retailers are all looking for innovation that puts the merchant top-of-mind when and where the consumer is browsing for products.  

About The Author

Meyar Sheik is President and Chief Commerce Officer for Kibo.