In the past two years, the online landscape has changed radically. The impact of the coronavirus consolidated the ascension of online shopping. At the same time, retailers — both off- and online — are dealing with challenges posed by supply chain issues, inflation, skyrocketing shipping costs, loss of third-party data and delays caused by the coronavirus.

Remaining top-of-mind with shoppers while responding to these challenges now requires new strategies that are based on understanding the massive shifts in consumer behavior and retailer resources.

Omnichannel: from offline to online and vice versa

Omnichannel has become omnipresent, driven in part by new shopping trends. Not only have consumers changed how they shop — seeing offline and buying online, and vice versa — but also have the buying channels.

The click-and-collect trend has gathered speed. The market for click-and-collect doubled in 2020 in the US and is expected to continue its massive growth through 2024. On top of that, research has shown that opening a new physical location leads to a 37% increase in traffic to the retailer’s website over the course of the following quarter.

In other words, focusing on an online only marketplace is a self-limiting strategy; physical and all-channel digital remain deeply connected.

Retailers need to understand their buyers’ habits and meet them where they go. However, if your budget is not unlimited, don’t spread your resources too thin. Instead, meet your shoppers where the return on investment is highest — and reinforce your message across platforms.

Following these best practices will help you increase sales, both online and offline.

  • Remind physical visitors of your website with an easily noticeable URL address, in-store prompts and similar colors/design elements
  • Offer off/online loyalty programs
  • Use QR codes to provide digital information about in-store products
  • Give online post-purchase deals for in-store buyers
  • Prompt in-store visitors to check availability of out-of-stock products in other locations — and follow up with deals for online orders
  • Extend subscriptions for repeat-purchase products to both off/online visitors
  • Encourage online shoppers to visit physical locations near them – and offer discounts for first buyers
  • Emphasize to in-store shoppers online convenience: fast shipping, easy returns, try-before-you-buy
  • Collect first-party data, off/online for out-of-stock items
  • Optimize physical stores by tracking visitor footprint and identifying low- and high-traffic areas; optimize your website by tracking the visitor journey from source point to exit

Omnichannel communication: make it consistent but not boring

Retailers need to walk a fine line between diversifying channels and preserving a unified message.

The boom of retail media is an indicator that the online advertising market still has significant growth potential. Retail media, or ads placed in online marketplaces, has already joined social commerce and contextual advertising as the new kids on the block, allowing retailers to meet shoppers where they are.

  • Contextual advertising is a highly effective method for creating or reinforcing brand awareness, matching content to both user interest and page context.
  • Social commerce is gaining serious traction. The more people use social media platforms as gateways to the internet, the more potential gain for retailers utilizing that space.
  • Retail media is extremely effective because visitors to online marketplaces such as Amazon or Walmart already have buying intent.

Of these, contextual advertising offers the added benefit of brand safety. It guarantees placements in brand-safe environments that elevate brand image, match page content and sentiment via advanced NLP modeling, and therefore answer customer intent.

Need for values

Increasingly, the discourse on transparency, sustainability and environmental impact has moved to the consumer level. Mindful shopping and purchasing: wasteful packaging, worker labor conditions, unsustainable sourcing, etc. are now common concerns across all verticals.

Connect your brand to an attitude. Sustainably made or sourced, fair labor, equitable production conditions, low environmental impact are important labels to an increasing number of buyers.

Takeaway: Angle your advertising to the top-most relevant concerns in your market.

New drivers for repeat purchases

To be able to prompt a repeat purchase, we, first, need to understand how the market has changed.

  1. Mobile shopping is poised for fabulous growth. Desktop interactions did yield the highest conversion rates (3.9% vs 2.3%). However, in Q4 of 2021, 67% of US online shopping was conducted via mobile. Be prepared to provide a seamless mobile experience, and then close the deal on desktop.
  2. Specific verticals have specific behavior patterns and drivers. Entertainment, apparel, electronics, accessories and footwear are now routinely bought online more than in brick-and-mortar stores. However, brand loyalty now tends to be lower: shoppers are more easily lured away by offers more aligned to their demands.
  3. Fewer visits, more money. Buyers visit brick-and-mortar less often than before the pandemic, but the amount spent has increased, even when controlling for inflation. Online the trend tends to be similar, with fewer pages visited but more time spent on each page.

Knowing how market segments are likely to interact with brands (what devices they use, what platforms they browse on, what prompts a click, where they close deals) will help you drive resell and upsell decisions.

Employing the below drivers can help you increase the likelihood of repeat purchases across the digital landscape.

  • Loyalty benefits are not a new driver, but you can implement it with QR codes across physical locations
  • Curated customer content
  • Digital enhancements to “visualize in your home”: augmented reality, digital size guides, 3d sizing, etc.
  • “Try before you buy” options, expedited shipping, in-store discounts and other benefits for members
  • Frictionless, seamless off/online experiences
  • “Complete the look”, “Others have also bought” suggestions

Necessity is the mother of invention

Consumers have become increasingly sophisticated and demanding. To capture their attention in a crowded market, advertisers must build on basic principles (buyer intent, customer journey tracking) by understanding the specifics of the “new normal”.

From the changes in time spent on a page to where exactly shoppers close the deal, from how retailers collect information about their audience to how they design the user experience, the world of commerce in 2022 is new again. However, the challenges we are facing are an opportunity to think outside the box and innovate in order to reach the audience one millisecond before a competitor does.