How Internet Storefronts Coexist, Integrate To Drive Sales

by , Oct 21, 2011, 8:00 AM
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Your customers have more choices than ever when it comes to shopping for the products they want, and it’s up to retailers to catch up and give the consumers what they want, where they want it. Now that people are doing their shopping online -- and even in the palms of their hands, it’s easy to be unnoticed if all you’re relying on is a Web storefront. According to Forrester, f-commerce conversion rates are on par with Web stores at an average of 3.4%. Retailers are starting to embrace the social shopping space more and more, and those that aren’t jumping on board are missing out because multiple channels means multiple sales.

It’s important to recognize that social media sites can act as portals to your retail site, but retailers are finding that many of these online shoppers are often bypassing the retailer Web sites completely, preferring social network shopping. This is not replacing the in-store experience, but merely adding to it. And it’s a great thing for retailers to take full advantage of. Those who do not innovate will feel the burden of the economy more than those who are finding ways to engage customers at every level -- wherever the customers want.

One thing that stands out immediately is the need for multiple shopping spaces, not the need of an online storefront to replace a Facebook shop, or the other way around. What we forecast is that multiple retail fronts (Web and social) will need to integrate and coexist in order to drive the most revenue.

In order to predict where the online shoppers want to have interactions with their favorite brands, consider why they are shopping online in the first place. They are shopping online for absolute convenience. The path to purchasing a product begins online with research. Now customers can do the research and get exactly what they need with one click. And the Internet no longer simply exists at a desk: Not only are people following their favorite retailers on their computers, but practically anywhere their smartphone goes. According to comScore, your smartphone audience grows roughly 53% every year.

In order to draw the customers and their networks to your brand, you have to give the customers what they want, where they already choose to be. Retailers cannot simply have a Facebook store or a Web store anymore -- and they can’t just have one re-directing customers to the other. 

Some retailers are embracing this approach and building Web storefronts alongside a Facebook storefront. To give the consumers reason to visit both, the Facebook store will often have merchandise that the regular website doesn’t have. It’s all about exclusivity and purpose when planning out a harmony between both outlets.  Your shopping platform should be integrated with the Facebook shop so that buyers do not have to leave Facebook to complete a purchase or fill the shopping cart. That’s the ultimate convenience, and that’s doing it “right.” Only a handful of retailers offer this one-stop shopping option for consumers browsing Facebook, but I believe this will be a huge trend in 2012.

By removing even one click, you’re moving the point of purchase closer to the user, and as you decrease the hassle of redirected sites and new tabs/windows, you increase sales.

It’s important for retailers to recognize the massive amount of social media users who want that convenience of shopping where they already spend a good amount of time. When you bring a storefront to the network where your customers already are, you’re leveraging their presence and taking full advantage of the opportunities with selling online, whether in the social or retail space. One thing we predict is that Facebook shopping pages aren’t going to bring in the big sales numbers unless they have a unique purpose in addition to (not in place of) your online Web page. If you meet the needs of Facebook fans and give the consumers what they want, it will pay back dividends.

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