Research online, buy offline: Why an omnichannel marketing strategy is vital for retailers

By 9 December 2022 December 15th, 2022 Google Ads
Online to offline

The rise of online shopping has had a major impact on the way consumers shop. The trend seems to be that the customer journey increasingly starts online but ends offline. This new kind of consumer behaviour is also known as the ROPO effect (Research Online, Purchase Offline). Continue reading if you want to find out why it is important as a retailer to align your online marketing activities with your physical shops.

Het ROPO effect visueel uitgelegd

Changes in the online landscape

Back in the days we were mainly used to advertisements on billboards, radio & TV, and you simply went to a shop to get information or advice from a sales consultant before making a decision to buy something. Now, 91% of all shoppers first seek information on the internet before buying a product or service.

The internet has opened up a world of web shops: in the past 10 years, there have been 290% more web shops in the Netherlands (Marketingfacts). With more than 80,000 webshops in the Netherlands, competition has increased enormously especially for retailers who only own a physical shop. And because webshops focus on the online aspect, consumers are flooded with information on a daily basis through paid advertisements on all kinds of channels. 

Just because the customer journey starts here doesn’t mean it has to end online. In fact, we also see a growing importance of offline marketing: 46% of searches on Google have a local intent, e.g. “near me” or people looking for a business address. This means that consumers are actively searching online for information about a specific product or service and are open to local businesses. 

The consumer thus looks at all options and possibilities, shops to visit and products to view, to gather as much information as possible to reach a decision to buy. Thus, the customer may make several visits before actually buying something… going in and out of multiple online and offline shops, going back for a second and and a third time. It is therefore important to stand out as a company during all these online and offline touchpoints through an omnichannel strategy.

Why bet on omnichannel marketing?

Customer Journey model, waarbij de bovenkant alle online touchpoints zijn, en de onderkant de offline touchpoints.

With an omnichannel strategy, you deploy multiple channels to be visible at different decision moments of a consumer. From the moment of inspiration using the first Google search to the moment of purchase in the shop. All the more so because this customer journey (Image 2) is no longer a funnel with those steps followed in a linear process. How the customer decides to make a purchase lies somewhere in “the messy middle” (Think with Google, 2020). These days there are a plethora of brands and products, presenting a mass of information or triggers to consumers through advertisements on a daily basis. Fortunately, with an omnichannel strategy, you can influence this process by creating both online and offline exposure on multiple channels, thereby always ensuring that you are top of mind throughout the customer journey.

In addition, omnichannel marketing creates consumer trust. After all, the consumer no longer experiences channels, but one company, one face. Your company’s online and physical visibility creates a connection and recognition of the brand, giving customers a unified experience. So an omnichannel strategy also contributes to your company’s branding.

Het verschil in online vs offline verkoop tussen verschillende productcategorieën.

Finally, deploying an omnichannel strategy is smart to spread risk. If, as a business, you don’t want to be dependent on one channel and/or product category, you have a big problem if this falls away. This could happen, for instance, if you get 80% of your sales through Google ads. Besides, with the ever stricter privacy regulations, we can measure an ever smaller amount of “purchases” coming in through online channels. Also, certain products simply lend themselves better to offline sales than others (see Image 3). Products like clothes, lighting and furniture are products you want to see, feel and experience. You don’t just buy them online. But also products that have a much shorter decision path, you want to have them quickly and preferably pick them up immediately in a shop.

Investing in which online channels?

Our view is therefore that – especially in the future – it’s all about getting the total experience. From branding to supply to strategy. With omnichannel marketing, integrating your online and offline marketing activities, you can capitalize this and the ROPO effect. Namely, generating online reach of your target audience, who are there. The website will then be a powerful marketing tool for you to lead the potential customer to the physical shops and convince them to buy there. So to sum up, an omnichannel strategy is important for retailers for the following 3 reasons:

  1. Be visible throughout the customer journey for the customer: from the moment of inspiration to after the purchase. 
  2. Create trust by giving the customer a uniform experience of the brand/company across multiple channels.
  3. Spread risk across channels and product categories. 

Would you also like to know which online channels you can best set up to boost both your online and offline sales in your shops? Then contact us for a free and tailored proposal or fill in our contactform below!

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