Saturday, June 09, 2007

Bringing online shoppers back into the store

Dave Polinchock over at Brand Experience Labs wrote a little blurb on a company called NearbyNow, who has the formidable task of encouraging online shoppers to make purchases in-store. They do this via a combination of web-based marketing and advertising (including optimizing retailers' web sites), traffic generation, and a bunch of analytics software to monitor progress. The general idea is that even if shoppers can already look for discounts, sales and coupons online (and they do), there are still a host of reasons for shoppers to actually complete the purchase process in the bricks-and-mortar world. Given how easy it is to buy just about anything online and have it delivered to the doorstep these days (I did about 75% of my Christmas shopping online last year -- Amazon free shipping rocks!), it's getting harder for many retailers to articulate their benefits over purely-digital shopping.

That's where NearbyNow comes in. From this article in the St. Pete Times:

"We're adding a Google-style product search that makes mall sites relevant to how people shop today, " said Dunlap. Follow-up surveys found one in 10 shoppers who used NearbyNow said it influenced an ultimate purchase. One in 100 tried to reserve something.

Reserving stuff, though, is hard to pull off.

Some chains can handle queries by e-mail directly to and from each store. Most do not. So NearbyNow telephones each store from a Kansas call center. Some store clerks will check the racks, some won't. Some will hold products for a customer for 24 hours, others won't. NearbyNow promises a response within 90 minutes, but the average is 20 minutes.

Westfield pays nothing for the NearbyNow hookup. But all of its stores and mall kiosks get a free text listing of what they want summoned for product searches.
This is clearly a logistical play as much as it is a tech play, and from just these few paragraphs it's pretty clear that a lot of retailers don't yet grasp how important these kinds of services will become as the Internet shopping experience continues to improve. Still, we're a long ways off from the time when we can strap into a virtual reality suit and navigate products just as we do in the real world. Until then, bricks-and-mortar retailers will continue to have a significant advantage with any product line that does best in a try-and-touch instead of a show-and-tell situation.

Tags: NearbyNow, store experience, advertising

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