As the Chief Operating Officer for SingleInterface, Sandeep looks after business & operations across all products. He has a decade of strong entrepreneur experience and a deep understanding of emerging media, retail & technology convergence. His energies are focused on making SingleInterface a leading marketing tech platform that focuses on driving the convergence between digital marketing & physical retail. His last stint was with Bira 91 as Vice President -Marketing (India & MEA). He joined the firm in 2016 as Director – Marketing & Alternate Channels. Over the next few years his deep understanding of building new economy brands & businesses and using a digital-first approach to marketing & distribution helped shape Bira 91 into one of the most loved brands in the country.
Over the last 18 months, the retail industry has been one of the most adversely impacted industries by the COVID-19 crisis. According to a recent survey by the Retailers Association of India (RAI), retail sales in the country plunged by 79 percent in May 2021, as compared to the pre-COVID sales in May 2019. With the enforcement of lockdowns, social distancing norms and overall caution being advised, customer’s behaviour shifted significantly. They began looking for detailed information online, before moving out of their homes. As a result of this shift in consumer behaviour, while physical business locations suffered, the online retail space witnessed a significant uptick in traffic and sales.
The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the world as we know it. People are living differently, buying differently and in many ways, thinking differently. Supply chains have been tested and brands have shifted their focus to being more integrated in their approach to ensure a seamless online to offline buying experience for consumers. .Till now, brands that had a good online retail presence were able to ride the wave of uncertainty while the others have had to realign themselves with a focus on building and strengthening their digital strategies to survive.
In order to stand apart from the various options available to customers, there is an unprecedented need for brands to digitize their physical locations. This not only entails having a strong online presence, but also designing hyperlocal strategies that harnesses the advantages of the digital space, and addresses the needs of the local customer. Proximity to one’s target audience, accurate and customised information, convenience, and accessibility, all at the click of a button, is what customers are looking for and therefore, it is what brands need to focus on to ensure better customer reach and experience
Strengthening your online presence to boost offline sales
SingleInterface recently conducted a poll wherein, 72% of the respondents said they prefer to search for products/services online before venturing out to a specific business location. Whether it is to check inventory, get information on operational hours, know more about ongoing deals and offers – a customers’ purchase decision is largely based on the information they can find online. Hence, for brands to remain relevant, having a strong online presence that synergises with their physical stores will go a long way in customer retention and acquisition.
While there are numerous ways in which a brand can create a more holistic online to offline experience for customers, having a focussed Hyperlocal Marketing strategy in this digital era is essential. Here are few essential things to keep in mind:
- Create a strong, store-level, digital presence for your brand
According to Google Local Search Statistics 2019, 88% of consumers who do a local search on their smartphone, visit or call a store within a day. A dedicated and informative location-level page online, with relevant and accurate information specific to that location, not only facilitates better engagement with the target consumer but also boosts in-store visits and sales. To engage with consumers today, brands must have every information updated across search and social platforms at all times. Having localised content for each store ensures that the customer gets the information they are looking for at the right time and place.
- Maintain seamless experience across online and offline
Today, customers navigate coherently between online and offline modes and prefer retailers who can best facilitate these transitions. When switching between online to the in-store space, customers look for consistency and seamlessness in the overall purchase journey. A study by Thinkwithgoogle states that 61% of customers lose trust in a brand if the information provided online is incorrect. Accurate and consistent data across the digital ecosystem builds trust, and sends a strong signal to search engines on the authenticity of a business’ data, resulting in a better quality score, higher rankings & impressions and thus, higher visibility.
- Information parity and unified response mechanism
Consumers’ journeys these days are not linear or dependent on a single platform. Not only are consumers consistently shifting between online and offline modes in their buying journey, they are also constantly switching within various online platforms and channels for their research and purchases. According to a study by Salesforce (called State of the connected customers), 74% of customers use ‘multiple online channels’ to start and complete a transaction, while 66% use ‘multiple devices’ to start and complete a transaction. Therefore, brands need to ensure that they are presenting unified responses to their customers across all channels. While chatbots help brands instantly connect with customers at their convenience, the various multichannel communication platforms are required to be connected internally from a single integrated source.
- Choose the right platform/technology to ensure brand equivalence
Ensuring that all brand elements and other information such as location data, local offers, inventory available are updated across each of your locations is another critical aspect in amalgamating online and offline segments. This ensures that a consumer’s experience across any location is similar and the person has right and readily available information before he visits a store. A technology solution that can bring everything in a single view wherein information across multiple locations can be updated in a click of a button is an ideal way forward. It simplifies the performance of your business and allows you to organise and track each of your locations from one central dashboard.
While retailers are looking forward to some improvement in the near future with the easing of lockdown, the industry, however, needs a major overhaul with the collective support of various other industry bodies and SaaS providers to tide over the present situation.
At the same time, the industry needs to realise the golden era of technology we are living in today and the opportunities it extends. Digital is the new frontier of customer interaction with being hyperlocal in approach; communication and offering are the pillars.