Swan Retail and Iconography Ltd provide advice on how to best use your website to help you sell in store.

The ONS states that 82% of adults in the UK used the internet every day in 2016, compared to only 35% back in 2006 . With the ever-continuing rise of online retailing, those retailers who are predominantly based in bricks and mortar stores might well be starting to get concerned. After all, why would your potential customers go to the effort of visiting a physical store when buying online is so effortless and convenient?

As it happens, there really is no need to get worried. According to a report by Mintel on Furniture Retailing, 84% of furniture purchases this year were performed in store. Based on that statistic, you would be forgiven for wondering what the point is in having a website at all.

If used well, an online presence is rapidly becoming one of the most useful weapons in any retailer’s arsenal, especially for the furniture industry. However, the website needs to be a seamless part of the retail experience, bringing another level of functionality and providing the customer with a reason to follow up their online visit with a trip to your physical store.

Your website can be more than just a brochure website to promote in store visits

The furniture sector is one dominated by high price, high involvement products which require a lot of thought from the consumer before a purchase is made. Customers now are including online research in this decision making process, reviewing the product in mind as well as alternatives online, potentially before they’ve even stepped foot in your store. Retailers need to make sure that they provide the necessary information – images, dimensions, product specifications, fabric options, delivery times, stock levels etc. – on their website.

Along with product information, you need to ensure that your website provides contact options as well as location details and opening hours of your stores. By having all of this available online, a customer is not only more likely to follow up with an in-store visit as they can see that you stock what they’re after, but also complete the sale, as the bulk of the research has been done online and now it’s just a case of checking whether they like the product in person.

Customer contact shouldn’t be limited to your website, you also need to make the most of social media channels. Research suggests that 60% of the UK population has a Facebook account,  so your potential reach is huge. With enough followers, your social media channel can become your most valuable tool, providing an efficient way of posting updates, adverts, marketing campaigns, articles and much, much more.

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Content is king here, social media should be seen as less of a sales tool, and more of an awareness and community engagement tool to increase brand recognition and credibility. If your content becomes too self-obsessed then your customer will inevitably become alienated; you want to forge a connection with them. This will involve keeping up with social trends and delivering a message that your audience can connect with, drawing them to your store in no time.

Your website can be more than just a brochure website to promote in store visits. By making use of Click and Collect functionality, where your customers can order an item online, then pick it up in the physical shop at their convenience, you can have a transactional site which still works in harmony with your physical presence.

The appeal for your customers is obvious. The convenience of online shopping without the hassle of having to be at home to receive the parcel or paying expensive delivery fees speaks for itself. It’s pretty huge for retailers too: companies can now more easily extend their online range and maintain that crucial connection between themselves and customers by encouraging them to come into store. This in turn can encourage add-on purchases alongside the already bought products, an idea that can be further enhanced via special click and collect deals, such as a voucher incentive when using the service. Using click and collect you can really start to maximise the potential of your multi-channel retailing.

Click and collect is one way of making that cross-channel link effective. Another way is through loyalty schemes. If a customer is able to collect points on a loyalty card both in-store and online when shopping, and then be able to view their balance wherever, they will be much more likely to utilise the scheme and visit both your physical and online stores. A good loyalty program can go one step further, by offering vouchers and discounts from the web-store that are only useable in the physical shop and vice versa. This encourages your customer to use both channels of your retail offering for a seamless experience between the two, enforcing brand loyalty.

Yes, engaging in cross-channel activity can seem daunting and cumbersome from an administration standpoint. However, by implementing a fully integrated multi-channel solution that can handle transactions and other retail functions from both online and in store, you can easily and effectively handle this activity, resulting in delighted customers and a noticeable increase in revenue.

www.swanretail.co.uk

www.iconography.co.uk