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Digital Marketing Doesn’t Just Work for E-Commerce — Here’s How It Can Serve Brick-and-Mortar

The explosion of e-commerce has provided a valuable revenue channel for brands and retailers who had to close their stores earlier this year. But brick-and-mortar is still a critical component of many brand strategies — and neglecting the store, in favor of digital activity, could cause damage to bottom lines.

“If you look at e-commerce penetration, it’s very strong, it’s growing, but it still only represents about 16% of all commerce,” said John Kelly, CEO at store marketing platform Zenreach. “The overwhelming majority of dollars spent are still offline. That’s one of the reasons why the traditional e-commerce players have decided to enter into the offline business as part of their retail strategy: Indochino, Casper, even Amazon with the acquisition of Whole Foods. All of them have realized that to fully address the consumer, they have to be offline as well as online.”

In order to support their store performance while also building on their online growth, businesses will need to embrace an omnichannel approach to their strategy — not just in terms of shopper journey, but also in the way they conduct marketing. While many customers still complete their purchases in store, they’re engaging in product discovery through digital channels.

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But gauging the impact of digital marketing on in-store conversion is a challenge, due to the difficulty of tracking store visitors. Without knowing who is actually coming into the store and responding to marketing, brands miss out on valuable opportunities to curate and personalize their content accordingly.

Zenreach offers a creative solution to this, leveraging a retailer’s existing WiFi network to detect customers as they walk by and into stores. Shoppers don’t need to actively connect to the WiFi to be detected; they will receive a prompt to sign up with Zenreach when within range of a participating network. All shoppers need to opt-in before their information is shared with the retailer and they can choose which merchants are able to “see” them.

Privacy concerns have arisen whenever new technology proposes to monitor human location for marketing purposes, but recent studies suggest that consumers are more openminded than before. In a survey by Qubit, 70% of consumers said they would share more personal information if it resulted in a personalized experience. And even if the proportion that sign into Zenreach is slightly lower, the increased visibility is still useful.

Screenshot of Zenreach solution Walk Bys
As Zenreach uses WiFi signal detection, it can identify customers who pass by a store as well as those who enter.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Zenreach

“For the merchant to make good decisions, they want to have an understanding of the consumer base — and the higher percentage that you’re able to recognize, the more thorough your understanding of the consumer base will be,” said Kelly. “What we strive to do is get the highest percentage recognition possible within a merchant base.”

Once a retailer utilizes the Zenreach solution, they are able to access a comprehensive view of their store customer base — a demographic that is commonly different from the audience responding to online advertising. While marketing teams may see online click-through rates as a good predicator of who buys from the brand, Zenreach has found that this frequently misses the types of shoppers who visit stores.

By gaining a clearer picture of a brand’s true customer base, marketing can be more accurately tailored to each kind of shopper. Consumers who prefer brick-and-mortar buying could receive alerts to store sales, inventory drops and local activations; online shoppers might be interested in shipping updates and e-commerce sales.

“As counterintuitive as this may sound, this is a great time to advertise,” said Kelly. “What we’ve traditionally seen is during any time of crisis, when marketing spend is usually pared back, those that are leaning in and marketing more are able to take tremendous market share.”

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