Over the last 15 years, eCommerce has made huge advances but despite significant growth in online retail, in-store purchasing still dwarves eCommerce (the Economist Intelligence Unit reports that online sales account for around 10% of total retail sales), and according to the latest POPAI (Point Of Purchase Advertising International) research 76% of all final purchase decisions are made in-store. Make no mistake about it, if we are searching for digital frontiers, the integration of digital commerce into ‘last mile’ marketing represents a fertile new land of opportunity, waiting to be claimed.
The challenges for the digital sector are to bring online audiences into the in-store retail space, with brand position and intention to purchase front of mind, and then to prove that it was digital that led to a sale. This a world away from the usual digital marketing strategy process where audiences are encouraged to move between controlled channels of activity, engaged and closeted by the brand story until, at specific points, they move into a sales cycle and, since social media platforms are probably in play, they are likely to be operating at several other levels with the brand as well.
As we start to tackle the last mile in digital commerce, our audiences are moving from those controlled environments into a maelstrom of distraction and subversion.
Diversion: Consumers will get in their own way as much as competing brands will attempt to hijack the potential purchase.
Diversion splits into:
Inertia – being motivated to get up off the couch to leave the house
Subversion – avoiding being thrown off track by competing messages on time, activity or products in direct competition.
Expectation: If they have avoided being diverted and have made it in-store, will our digitally brand-aligned consumer have their expectations met? When they evaluate the physical store, does it resonate with digital brand message? When they find the product they want, does it meet their expectations on inspection?
Decision: If all other criteria are met, does the consumer desire the product? Granted, there may not be much soul searching over committing to the purchase of a tin of beans, but the decision to buy a new outfit at 40% of this month’s disposable income may require a little more self justification.
In the same way that digital is used to build the audience, the challenges presented by last mile marketing can be addressed through digital.
Mobile is evolving to close the 360 customer view - NFC and mobile-tracked loyalty schemes have started to allow an additional layer of identity to otherwise anonymous consumers, arming shop floor representatives with as much knowledge as the local shopkeeper in terms of interests and buying habits.
The power of mobile is that it is always with the consumer - in addressing the challenges of the last mile:
For diversion it can serve as a reminder (geo-location and task triggered), and / or another diversion (highlighting special offers and triggering opportunistic sales).
For expectation it can supplement and bolster brand and product messages, taking a little of what the consumer experienced online to drive their desire and bring that into the retail space either for proactive or reactive engagement (a recent survey by research company Wave Collapse revealed that 93% of consumers using a mobile app in-store made a purchase).
For decision, mobile (especially when tied with social) can lift introspection to grow to peer reassurance and reinforcement (direct questions to social groups, previous customer reviews and more).
Every time the consumer looks to jump out of the last mile journey to in-store purchase, mobile can bring them back in.