Over the past decade, eCommerce has come of age. Nearly 70% of US online adults are shopping online monthly—33% each week (Mintel). Stores without a strong online presence will be losing out on a huge opportunity to engage with their customers and create additional revenue for their operations. Further, the target age groups of millennials (ages 18 to 34) comprise a disproportionately large piece of digital retail spending at $2,000 per year (PFSweb). From the rise of Amazon.com to Chegg.com, the competitive pressure from all corners of the college store environment has squeezed margins and threatened traditional in-store sales experiences.
The recipe for success is a potent omni-channel experience for your customers— combining the best of brick and mortar with an equally impressive eCommerce experience. Why should you focus on your digital presence? We have our top five reasons for you.
1. Sales Growth / Customer Retention
As noted above, eCommerce as a part of overall sales will continue to rise. Customers are in charge and their buying habits are helping to drive this transition. While there are more options than ever to purchase, it’s important that stores have a committed and focused digital presence to be able to engage its potential customers as well as maintain relationships with existing customers. One thing we know for sure: If your in-store inventory is not online, you can be assured there will be no online sales.
2. Driving Traffic with Search
Search is how online retailers get discovered. Online retailers are ranked on search engines based on what is most relevant to users, but it’s no longer enough to make it onto the first page of Google. Your page needs to consistently rank higher than your competitors, as research has shown improved engagement and reduced bounce rates for higher ranked results. Luckily, our industry is unique in that many customers are shopping for school specific items, which gives stores a prime opportunity to rank ahead of competitors in search results. Search engines value-rich content, so it’s important to ensure that your product listings are complete with high-quality images, titles, and product descriptions to be able to rank high in Search.
3. Millennial Buying Decisions Matter
Millennial buying habits are driving a significant portion of all consumer-facing industries forward because of their prevalence and preference in researching and buying online. This segment won’t often buy on their first visit to your site. Stores who understand their customers’ buying journey are utilizing their digital presence to engage with their customers through all of its stages. In fact, new research from Google Analytics, which looked at data from over 36,000 customers worldwide, shows a clear customer journey of four stages – Awareness, Consideration, Intent, and Decision (Search Engine Watch). Millennials are utilizing digital information, social networks, and mobile devices throughout this journey. 84% of millennials claim to use their phones for shopping assistance while in a store (Mobile Commerce Daily).
Info Graphic – Millennial Purchasing (Alliance Data)
4. Mobile Experience
Mobile browsing and buying is a reality for many consumers. In fact, US retail Mobile eCommerce growth is up 39% over 2015 and nearly double from 2014 (eMarketer). While conversion rates for mobile are still less than desktop, there are a number of things that stores can do to ensure their guests have a great mobile experience. The most fundamental mobile strategy is ensuring that your site is responsive to whatever device the guest is using. Whether using the desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone, you need to ensure they will be able to successfully view and positively experience your site. Websites without responsive design are downgraded by search engines which should provide additional motivation to update the site. Stores that are aware of the importance of the mobile experience on their websites will dramatically outperform those that don’t.
5. We’re All Omni-Channel Now
The reality is clear—customers want an Omni-Channel experience. To meet your customers at any stage of their journey, savvy stores need a full arsenal of a great in-store experience and online relevance. With Omni-channel transactions now making up 38% of all purchases, according to a recent UPS study (eMarketer), it is clear that in-store experiences and a strong digital presence is a winning combination. Does this mean that in store traffic suffers because of the web? Absolutely not. Online sales are driving in-store sales as well. Whether that means that a customer has researched the product online and is now visiting on site, has bought online and picks up in-store, or returns items to the store, more often than not, these customers will be making additional purchases while at your store.
As the market continues to evolve and buying patterns change, one thing is certain – if your mobile experience is lacking you are at risk of missing out on revenue, relationships, and relevance. If you haven’t already put a strong emphasis on your web presence, there’s no better time than right now.