Mixing To Win: How To Strike The Balance With Your Online And Offline Experience

Mixing To Win: How To Strike The Balance With Your Online And Offline Experience
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When the global pandemic kicked in early last year and we first started hearing the (now all too familiar) term ‘lockdown’, something significant happened. 

People started shopping online not because they wanted to, but because they had to.

With many in-store businesses brought to a standstill virtually overnight, customers started searching online for the items that would have usually required a physical trip to the shops.

It’s something Google Australia and New Zealand Industry Director: Commerce, Renee Gamble experienced first-hand.

“Last year, both my oven and my dishwasher completely died within a week of each other,” Gamble explained during episode one of Google’s new On the Line series

“Normally for such a really big-ticket purchase, I would have only felt comfortable going into a store and having a conversation with a real person and to have that more tactile touch and feel experience.

“But out of an abundance of caution and just not really being able to go into the store, I had to go online.”

A great customer experience and fast delivery meant that very soon the replacement dishwasher and oven were installed within the week.

These positive online interactions that arose last year through necessity are set to create permanent changes in customer behaviour.

And the data backs this up. Australia Post data shows that 70 per cent of Australian households shopped online during the first quarter of 2021 (a period where the country was largely unrestricted by lockdowns), marking a 12 per cent increase on the year prior.

“Overall our comfort levels with being online and ecommerce have really lifted, we’re really blending much more of those online and offline experiences,” Gamble said.

“I think this change really will stick – this ongoing fluidity. It’s the new way that we shop.”

Online vs offline

The COVID-led boom in ecommerce does not mean the in-store experience is dead, nor does it mean online and offline channels will exist independently of one another.

For brands and marketers, these consumer shifts mean it is now more important than ever to get the online and offline mix right.

“You need to build that continuous thread in terms of the experience, so that the experience you show a customer when they are online carries through in a really continuous and seamless way to the physical store experience,” said Gamble. 

“Also recognise that just because you advertise online doesn’t mean that your customer will buy online. In fact, a lot of online channels, such as search, display and digital video have a massive impact on your in-store sales, that can actually drive 42 per cent of in-store traffic.”

Similarly, an in-store experience can drive online traffic as much as 40 per cent, highlighted Gamble.

GfK Australia and New Zealand Managing Director Morten Boyer pointed to research from the firm, which found that shoppers feel 52 per cent more positive about brands that connect with them through both online and offline means, rather than just one channel.

GfK’s research also found that with more than 50 per cent of Australians now completing more interactions online, customers are “more discerning” with when they want an online or offline experience.

“It’s really the brands and the retailers who get that intertwining between online and offline engagement right are going to win and be rewarded,” Boyer said.

Boyer used the example of buying a TV to illustrate the gap that can exist between an online and offline experience.

While shopping in-store for a TV, a customer might be less likely to receive impartial advice from a shop assistant and may not be able to access the same deals that they would online.

Shopping online, meanwhile, means they can compare different models and prices from a wider range of providers and seek out independent reviews.

GfK found that one in three people had a poor brand experience that did not meet their expectations.

“That gap, I think, between the online experience and the in-store experience is going to become increasingly less acceptable to people,” Boyer said.

The need for a navigator

As brands work to create an increasingly interconnected online and offline experience, the customer journey will naturally become less linear.

Boyer used the example of an individual having car problems. An initial Google Search for spare parts soon turns into a search for a new car and checking out reviews and prices for different models and makes.

Soon this same individual is looking at different financing and insurance options, making calls to get quotes, before finally returning online and making a purchase.

“People really need some steering and navigation to help them move through that complex journey,” Boyer said. 

“It is important for people to be able to rely on a trusted navigator to steer them through that omni-channel journey.”

As a result, GfK saw that 70 per cent of all consumer journeys involve the use of a Google touchpoint, such as Search, YouTube or Maps.

You can see the full episode of On the Line here.

 

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