Shoppers see brands, not sales channels

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Retailers have begun to realise that the way they sell online cannot be separated from the rest of their business. But to understand how web and mobile commerce are influencing their overall sales, they need to pay close attention to how consumers shop.

As Marketing Week discovered at its 1-2-1 Ecommerce Summit recently, retailers still take a number of different approaches to ecommerce, incorporating websites, mobile sites and smart phone apps. Some emphasise content and some emphasise the ease of making transactions.

By no means is there a one-size-fits-all solution, but all marketers should be thinking about how their ecommerce strategy complements their bricks-and-mortar business. They should also be collecting the data to demonstrate it.

It seems from anecdotal evidence that there is still some suspicion from marketers and managers of high street stores that online channels are eating away at their sales without an overall increase in revenues. In some cases this might be true, but if it is, it is because the strategy is wrong.

Geography is still an important factor in the purchasing habits of even the most mobile members of the mobile generation. A regular shopper at a particular brand is likely to know where their nearest branch is, regardless of the sales channel they most often use. Walking past a shop window on the way home might remind someone of a product they need to add to their online basket, while conversely web research might be the catalyst for a purchase later made in store.

Marketers should therefore be careful not to limit the scope of their data analysis to one channel or the other, but should look at them all together. Physical store locations should also have some level of accountability for the ecommerce activity, and the resulting profits and losses, occurring in their catchment areas.

It will not always be possible to work out where a particular purchase journey started, even if you know where it ended. But with loyalty cards, mobile apps and online shopping accounts each collecting personal information linked to what was bought or added to a basket, retailers have a clearer view than ever of shoppers’ habits, down to the level of the individual.

It should therefore possible to show with some level of confidence whether your ecommerce strategy is driving incremental sales increases in combination with your bricks-and-mortar stores. And the results should be communicated clearly so that those on both the online and the offline sides of the business are on board.

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