A Garter Survey says that 98% marketers say online and offline marketing are merging. What does it mean for offline businesses who are feeling that they are losing out to online businesses? Simply put they have to embrace a O2O – Online to Offline business strategy.
What is O2O or online to offline Marketing?
The best & simplest definition is “A business strategy that draws potential customers from online channels to physical stores.” Online-to-offline commerce, or O2O, identifies customers in the online space, such as through emails and internet advertising, and then uses a variety of tools and approaches to entice the customer to leave the online space. This type of strategy incorporates techniques used in online marketing with those used in brick-and-mortar marketing.” as defined on investopedia.com
Marketers of large companies have moved beyond digital marketing techniques and are expanding marketing’s role to create new digitally led business models. The sweet spot of the physical and digital worlds represents opportunities for marketers to apply customer insights to create and test new digitally led experiences and business models. Baidu and Alibaba are doing this in a big way in China while on demand services companies like Airbnb and Uber have made these into unique business models.
But what does this all mean for the small and medium size business. How do they adjust to this with limited resources?
Here are 10 things sme/msme can do to embrace this change and increase their revenue without too much investment.
1. Customer Data
Start collecting data of visitors and buyers. This is the starting point and perhaps the key driver of your O2O strategy. The fancy e commerce valuations you see are mostly driven by data. Merchants need to put in place a system where you collect information such as name, email, mobile number and as you move ahead you can add transaction history and other data points. Reward customers with offers and freebies to share data via website, sms or on paper. A simple tool to start with is www.zoho.com to manage the data.
2. Email and SMS
You have now data of visitors and customers. Segment it. The more data points the better segmentation. This is not very scientific. Just segment it by gender, area, age & transaction initially and then evolve to by birth date, preference, days of visit etc. Reach out to them by email or sms. Update them on offers, invite them to events, and wish them on their birthdays. A good DIY tool for email is MailChimp , ConstantContact. SMS is a very cost effective direct to customer tool .There are local vendors who will provide this service for prices as low as Rs.0.10 per sms
Most likely your customer is on Facebook. Set up your page and get people to like your page. Keep the page active with 4 or more posts a week. Always use images and if possible videos. Unfortunately, now it doesn’t mean that if you post all your fans see your post. So you will need to “boost” you post for a little fee. Use the Audience feature to add your data on Facebook to get people who already know you. This is another effective way to reach out to your prospects and customers. Based on the size of your business it would be a good idea to manage the page yourself for a while and probably engage an agency when your ROI is up. There are many other tools on Facebook to help push your business. Create offers that can be redeemed in-store.
A recent study by Small Business Customer website shows that nearly 60% of Twitter followers buy from an SMB. One way to initiate more traffic to your Twitter business page is by integrating a “follow” button on your website. Once your profile becomes familiar with existing customers, you can tweet to your followers about your upcoming product launches or trade shows and encourage them to retweet about your event. You can consider offering special discounts or freebies to your Twitter followers when they and their friends attend the offline event.
Instagram will soon join the 100 million users club and if you haven’t yet used this innovative visual storytelling platform to meet your business goals, it’s high time you considered it. You can build anticipation among your Instagram community about your upcoming offline event by taking instant photos of your event’s stage being set and so on and post it on the website. Another way is to send exclusive invites to your Instagram fans and encourage them to meet up at your store or on the streets and post photos of them using your products or services. It would be a cool idea to host such real life meet-ups among your online community to build your brand offline.
6. Google – Places and Maps
More than 70% of online Google search activity is related to finding local stuff. And nearly 80% of online local searches on Google Places can end up visiting your offline store. It’s time you considered it carefully to build your business. Here’s a way to initiate it. Make sure you have a 100% score on the Google Places listing by filling all details. Optimize your listing description with product/service keywords. Encourage your existing customers to give good reviews on the Google Places & Maps to stand out among your competitors.
7. Strategic Partnerships
Strategic partnership can jointly benefit you and your partner as you can offer value added services to your existing customers. It spreads the marketing load to each partner while promoting their respective products/services. More importantly, your relationship with customers gets strengthened. For example, if you are an offline music training center you can partner with an online music instruments selling website to attract new students. You can distribute to your existing customers a free e-book or an online demo of your product/service that features you and your strategic partner(s). Make use of exclusive online discounts as a way of promoting your partnership among new and existing customers.
With the onset of the Internet of Things, offline businesses can harness it to offer customers a virtual like shopping experience. Take for instance, a fashion clothing store that makes use of iPad or tablets in changing rooms to help customers request various colors and sizes. IOT isn’t just about increasing sales, but leverage it effectively to boost overall shopping experience for your customers. As an offline business, you can access the same level of information just like an online store to improve your new or existing customer’s experience. One way is to follow up data on your customer’s recent online shopping journey and offer special discount on products they looked online. Your message can be something like, “Hello Jenny, the trousers you looked online two days ago is now available at our store at 10 percent off and its available in three additional colors.” The IOT technology can be harnessed to build better relationships with your customers like never before.
Digital/online wallets can now be used not only for online shopping payments, but even for offline businesses. You can make use of this trend, whether you have a food store or a cab services company. Give your customers the freedom to pay through online wallets anytime, anywhere. This can result in increased revenue, as your customers will be long satisfied since they aren’t required to carry cash or plastic cards to make payments when they avail your services or products. So whether you are a small start-up or a growing offline business, you have the option of choosing an extensive range of digital wallet services.
Simply put, there’s no shopper who doesn’t like to get rewarded. A loyalty program should aim at encouraging the loyal engagement of your customers, in other words get buyers to patronize your business. It can’t get any easier than using the digital platform to promote your loyalty program for increased offline revenue with repeat customers. You can reward loyalty points to your existing customers when they subscribe to your online newsletter. You can also reward them when they refer their social network friends to visit your offline store. Another way is to conduct special online loyalty surveys to know more about your customers’ shopping activities both online and offline to gather valuable data. Just ensure the redeem limit is not too steep to reward your customers.
Following all these strategies require time and planning, get a team to work on these and plan accordingly. Similar to online revenue, offline store can gain more profit and revenues by being up to date. All the best!