Why Your Retail Messaging Should Be Different for Online & In-Store Audiences

retail and ecommerce shoppersWith e-commerce, online customer service, remote consulting, and social selling becoming ever more present, we’ve seen a divergence in customer mentalities.

On one hand there are those who take these new online amenities as a sign to never have to set foot inside a store or business again.

But there is still a vast amount of consumers who prefer to have in-person interactions, or see or try products before taking the leap to take out their wallets. When you have a brick-and-mortar business, but also an online presence, how do you streamline your marketing to appeal to these two different audiences?

Creating One Unified Message

The answer may be easier than you think. Let’s start from the beginning:

Develop a strong and consistent brand identity

They key to making sure you are successful in appealing to different buyer personas while being one company, is to showcase your brand identity and values across the board. If customers decide to flip flop from coming to you online to meeting you in-store, it is crucial for them to have a sense of familiarity and consistency. If you want to emphasize the quality in the products or services your in-person business provides, the same should be emphasized on your website or e-commerce site.

This also comes down to image. It’s necessary to use the same color scheme and logos, type fonts, and service and product names, between both online and offline parts of your business. Without this consistency, customers may feel confused, or even believe you to be a different company or subsidiary.

Establish the values, personality, codes of conduct, and company mission that you want your brand to exemplify at all times. Creating these things as the mantra for your business will make it easier to provide the same experience for all types of audiences, in any situation. These should be the same brand guidelines that direct your content marketing and social media presence, which are a reflection of your actual business.

Adjust your mentalities

If you have preconceived ideas about types of consumers or audience members who prefer your online business to your real store-front, or vice versa, stop right there.

There’s never been a more diverse landscape of consumer profiles than there are right now, so try not to place a value on certain groups of people until you have the tried and tested data points and sales numbers to prove it. A sale is a sale, and if you are working towards sustaining both an online presence and a brick-and-mortar business, then each group should be of utmost importance to you.

Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, let’s talk marketing.

Snowballing on our last point, it’s also important that you don’t want play favorites – unless you take it all the way.

We use marketing to draw customers and potential customers to us. Decide right now if you prefer customers to come to you in person, or you want them to operate mostly online. If you want all things to be fairly even, then you shouldn’t focus your marketing mostly on one audience or another, unless you are trying to ramp up business in a particular area.

Think about the values that in-person customers have versus the ones that online customers have. Do people who come into your business value great customer service, a personalized experience, someone there to actually listen to their wants and needs and understand? And do online customers value speed of service, convenience, the ability to find what they need independently without the help of others, or a ‘nagging’ salesperson? Your marketing materials that target each group of consumers should appeal to these value sets and different needs.

Location, location, location

One large factor that can play a major part in how you do marketing for your online store versus your physical store, is location. It’s easier than ever to now target specific audience members based on location through Facebook ads, PPC and Display ads, or mobile ads.

You should not be wasting your time on marketing content to customers to get them to visit your storefront if they are not within a reasonable distance from your brick-and-mortar location. Mailed flyers with in-store coupons won’t work for people who are too far from your physical business, but you should definitely be focusing on those people for driving traffic to your website.

Alternatively, you can use geo-location tools to alert potential customers close to you about new store openings, or use specific content to get those people to come in and meet you in person. Convenience of location has a great deal to do with whether people will be more likely to purchase in store or online, so take that into consideration when creating your marketing strategy and audience segmentation.

Reduce risk

If you’re trying to bolster online sales, or have more products available online than in-store, a marketing tactic you can try is to ensure customers are aware that there is a low risk of making a wrong or bad purchase.

The best way to do this is of course to have reliable and quality products or services, but customers should also feel that they either have a way out, or the decision or purchase can be reversed. Consider offering free trials of services, or a generous return policy on goods. Having these safety nets in place not only make customers more comfortable, but they can be fodder for your marketing content as a way to appear confident in what you have to offer.

These policies can also drive customers to your brick-and-mortar businesses. Offer a free or reduced initial consultation for customers who visit in-store, or a buy-one-get-one incentive for those who are unsure of making a purchase online but are willing to come in to try your products out.

Also consider that in-store buyers may be more likely to be first-time customers of yours. Provide them with great customer service, and a quality product, and you’ll be more likely to see repeat business. Then, after the initial purchase, these customers may choose to make future purchases online, since they now know your business and products. Make that transition as easy as possible with loyalty programs, saved previous purchases, and the same great ease of use online.

Let’s look at one example:

The beauty retailer juggernaut Sephora has an incredibly strong online and retail outlet presence. How have they done this? By offering something different to each of their customer bases, while staying extremely true to their brand identity and ideals.

Customers who prefer to shop in-store are greeted by the opportunity to try products before purchasing, either in demonstrations by Sephora employees, or through samples they can take home to try. In marketing materials promoted by Sephora, customers are encouraged to come into the store for special makeovers, or are invited to attend events and lessons.

Online Sephora shoppers receive incentives through sales and deals that are only available online, and have access to a greater amount of inventory of products than are available in-store. Marketing materials that target online shoppers promote online gift buying guides and product tutorial videos.

Sephora online videos

Sephora’s online portal offers video tutorials and product reviews

Sephora makes it so that there is something for everyone, then they invite all their customers to share their experiences through the submission of reviews, or engagement through social media. They make sure to provide the same value to their online and in-store customers, only through different marketing tactics and incentives. Sephora caters to the different needs of its diverse customer base, but in a way that still emphasizes the quality of products and service, and the sense of community that is created through being a Sephora customer.

Now it’s your turn

Think about what you have to offer your different customer bases and play to your strengths. If you’d like customers and potential customers to check you out online without needing to come into your storefront, make sure your website is thoroughly comprehensive.

Offer plenty of relevant and useful content, make your website easily navigable with all the information a customer could need to help them make an informed purchase, or contact you for business inquiries. Include information about your company itself, answers to frequently asked questions, and detailed products or services pages.

Marketing to varying audiences is a task in itself, but when you have a brick-and-mortar business combined with an online presence, there are even more elements to consider. Utilize a strong brand identity across all platforms, ensure customer expectations and what you deliver are aligned, consider location and your customer’s values.

When you play to your strengths and have policies in place to make buyers confident in what you have to offer, you increase the potential for repeat customers, and you’ll be on your way to having both a strong online and offline business.

Get started identifying your unique buyer personas with our free collaborative prospect and persona worksheet. Download yours below: