There is no doubt that the digital age is revolutionising shopping and customer engagement. Whilst traditionally, brands would deliver most of their shopper marketing in store and via radio, television or magazine advertising, the inclusion of the digital marketing through the internet, websites and social media gives retailers many more opportunities to engage and interact with their consumers before they have visited the store.
So does this growth in online and digital marketing drive purchases in store or does it in fact have a detrimental impact?
One thing that can be agreed on from the onset is that digital engagement is fragmenting shoppers. The digital experience is one that focuses on a personalised approach which means that different people have different experiences of the same brand. For instance, some people may have only spotted a brand on a billboard or in a magazine they read on the train whereas others will have interacted with the brand through social media. Both are aware of the brand, in the traditional sense, but this radically different brand experience means that as they enter the store they will require a different kind of marketing approach.
Some shoppers will be satisfied with the simple premise that the product exists whereas others, who have had a much more immersive experience via the brand’s social media channels, may expect that involvement to continue in store. As retailers can’t hope to satisfy everyone, segmenting their customers and then targeting each segment specifically should yield the best results.
Yes, digital marketing channels drive purchases within store as it gives the shopper the opportunity to find out more about the product before visiting the shops, but it also means that the purchasing decision is often made before the store visit and thus any attempt in store to persuade the shopper otherwise may be futile. With the right tactics in store to target those digitally immersive shoppers, retailers should see the positive impact of the digital age.
On the other hand, some would argue that digital marketing can have a negative impact on driving purchases in-store. Shopping, or indeed just researching a product online is made so easy by the fact you can flip between one website and another to compare features and prices in just a few clicks. This makes it hard for brands to retain loyalty.
Then, of course, there is the fact that the digital channel is taking away a lot of those purchases traditionally made in store. Many people now choose to do all of their shopping online. From groceries to home appliances, birthday presents to children’s clothing, the simplicity and flexibility online shopping offers the consumer often means that there is no opportunity to market to these people in store and the digital channel is the only means of engaging with the customer.
Perhaps then the use of digital marketing has both a positive and negative impact on purchases in store and it’s up to retailers to use and understand their customer data in order to target their customers according to whether they are influenced by digital channels or not.
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