26 May 2024, 16:01
By Graham Jones Jun 19, 2014

How to bring online shoppers in store

Not a week goes by without another statistic reflecting the growth of e-commerce, says Graham Jones – yet that’s no reason to ignore your in-store transactions, which can really benefit from this online interest …

Retail statistics often make interesting – but confusing – reading. For a start, you can hardly move for research statistics showing that online shopping is increasing at huge rates. At the start of the year, for example, some retailers were talking about online sales growth rates of over 130% year on year.

However, 130% of not very much is still not very much. Whatever online retailers might like to tell us about internet shopping, the vast majority of goods and services are still bought in the real world.

There is, though, a problem for retailers which is caused by the internet – and that is reduction in footfall. Worse still, the people who shop online tend to be the richest groups, with most disposable income. Not only is the internet stealing customers from your shop floor, it is taking away the best customers.

Many furniture stores have responded to this situation with online shops themselves, enabling them to capture sales they have lost from their traditional stores. But there is an added problem online – comparison shopping. Studies show that in the real world people rarely comparison shop, unless rival stores are close together. It turns out that people are only prepared to travel a few hundred yards in order to compare prices. On the internet people can ‘travel’ to a rival store within seconds in a click or two. The competition online is much, much closer. So, even if a furniture retailer builds an online store to attract lost footfall, it is doing so in a much more competitive space.

One of the things lost online is the three-dimensional, tactile experience of the real-world shop. Online, there is only a two-dimensional visual experience of items on sale. Yet humans live in a three-dimensional world where we use multiple senses to engage – the smell of a furniture store, for instance, is important in triggering psychological buying responses. So too is the pile of the carpet – when people stand on plush carpets, they tend to open their wallets more easily.

“A live chat facility that puts people in direct contact with the relevant sales staff in their local store would start to build a relationship”

None of this can be controlled online – which is why people often land on your website, have a quick look around and then depart without buying anything. The experience – no matter how well designed the pages might be – is less emotionally engaging than a real world store. This means if you can get people into your store, instead of shopping online, you have a greater chance of converting sales.

Many retailers have a ‘find a store’ feature and a list of opening times. But frankly, that’s information people can find in several other ways, such as a simple search on Google. Why might people want to come into a real store? When asked this, people generally reply that they want to do this so they can speak with a real person. One way, therefore, of generating increased footfall is having a website where people can engage with the staff they will meet in the showroom itself.

A live chat facility that puts people in direct contact with the relevant sales staff in their local store would start to build a relationship – something that shoppers frequently cite as important in their buying decisions. Rather than having a ‘local store opening times’ page on your website, far more useful in increasing footfall would be pictures of staff, their contact details, the times they are in the store and so on. Online shoppers are frequently seeking a human-to-human connection, not a human-to-website one.

Websites could also use the text on pages to increase the chances of people visiting the real-world stores. Your website could do this by the use of framing – a psychological technique where people’s minds are set in the right direction by the words you use.

So, instead of saying what a three-piece suite looks like, describing it in matter-of-fact wording, say something like: “As you will feel when you sit on this sofa in your local store, the plush fabric is warm and comfortable.” Such wording puts an image in the mind of the shopper of them sitting on the sofa in your store, and what they will feel when they do so.

Then when they can see a button to ‘make an appointment to sit on this sofa’ they will be much more likely to do so, causing a visit to your real world store. Framing psychological expectations in this way by using the right wording on your website is crucial to getting higher footfall.

These are just a couple of techniques that websites can use to increase footfall in real world stores. Many retailers are missing out on them because they see the website solely as an e-commerce location, rather than as a means of increasing business overall.

Graham Jones is an ‘internet psychologist’ and author of Click.ology: What Works in Online Shopping, published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing. This article was published in the May issue of Furniture News magazine.

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