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E-commerce sales have soared this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020, internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales reached an all-time high of 32.8% in the UK (Office For National Statistics).
E-commerce has never been as popular as right now. With technology advancements making it all the easier to browse and shop online, it’s only going to become more popular.
McKinsey evaluates that due to COVID-19, we have covered a ‘decade in days’ when it comes to the adoption of digital. This can be seen in the rapid adoption of remote working tools, the acceleration of telemedicine and, of course, the necessity of online shopping.
H&M announces 250 store closes because of an increase in online sales due to the pandemic. Many other stores such as M&S and John Lewis announced that several of their stores across the UK would not re-open after lockdown.
But, does the popularity of online shopping have to mean the death of the high street? In my opinion, no. Although the pandemic may have increased the need for online retail, brick-and-mortar stores are still very much a key part of people’s purchasing decisions. We saw people flock to their local shops as they re-opened post-lockdown, illustrating that the desire for good old window shopping and in-person browsing is still there.
So, how can we build the bridge between offline and online retail? Let’s take a look at how online and offline can work together, rather than existing as antitheses.
Encourage Footfall with Local Inventory Ads
Trend data from Mastercard shows that consumer spending has shifted from central London towards outer zones and suburbs since lockdown (The Guardian). This is hardly surprising. After all, more people are working from home and showing a preference to shop locally to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
This current preference for shopping locally can be harnessed with Local Inventory Ads.
Google’s Local Inventory Ads allow you to serve shopping ads to those searching close to your brick-and-mortar stores. It will let these local shoppers know that your products are available in store.
Local Inventory Ad
When the user clicks on your Local Inventory Ad, they will land on a Google-hosted page for your shop, called the local storefront. This local storefront provides more information about the location of the nearest shops, as well as opening times and a link to your website if they want to buy online.
Google uses your local inventory feed to bring your shop online. It gives shoppers real-time information about whether a product is in-stock, and where.
Google Local Storefront
Using local inventory ads not only alerts consumers to the possibility of shopping in-store but also increases your chance of appearing for a search query when running both Product Listing Ads and Local Inventory Ads.
Ever Heard of BOPIS?
BOPIS. Buy Online, Pick-up In-Store.
BOPIS is becoming increasingly popular in e-commerce. Purchasing online but picking up in-store allows users to check availability before they travel. It makes in-shopping experiences quicker and more efficient. This is more important than ever to consumers.
Buying online but picking up in-store also saves on hefty delivery charges, as well as minimising the number of times your neighbours will see yet another delivery van pull up outside your house. I don’t know about you, but I like to keep my shopping addiction private.
Make Sure Your Google My Business is Up-to-Date
There’s nothing more frustrating than checking opening times online, only to get to the store in question and find it closed.
With opening times and store information changing so frequently at the moment, it’s essential to keep your Google My Business up-to-date. For restaurants, make sure you let your customers know whether you’re offering delivery, takeaway and/or eat-in.
Create an Online Storefront
Every trip out of the house has become potentially risky. People are checking in-store availability online before they leave the house to cut down on unnecessary contact.
A good example to illustrate the importance of online storefronts is Primark. Primark was forced to close its 375 stores in March as a result of the National lockdown. This resulted in sales revenue plummeting from £650 million per month to zero.
Primark has since launched an online shopfront where users can browse online, but ultimately have to still go into a brick-and-mortar store to purchase. This is no doubt a reaction to changing consumer behaviour. Primark has also been clever here, as people who are coming into to store to find a few things they’ve seen online will most likely be tempted to buy even more products once they’re there.
If, like Primark, you are not ready to facilitate online sales or delivery, a simple online storefront is a good place to start. Of course, not every small business has the resources to set up an online website. Fear not, your social media profiles can act as a great online storefront to exhibit and show off your products.
Building the Bridge
The increase in online sales does not have to mean trouble for your brick-and-mortar stores. Online and offline retail can support each other, working simultaneously to generate sales and revenue. An online presence can be utilised to encourage more footfall to your stores, and give your customers even more ways to buy your products.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me via LinkedIn (Alice Stapleton) I’d love to hear from you. For more information or advice on your digital marketing get in touch with the team at Digital Clarity.