Dan King
This is a post by Dan King

Long gone are the days of a traditional retail experience, where you would walk into a store to try out a product and purchase it on the spot. From a new home-entertainment system to a T-shirt, these days we’re likely to try the product out in-store, before going home and purchasing online.

The reverse is also true, when we research a product online before going in store to make our final purchase. This ranges from reviewing fashion and clothing online and using the in store purchase experience to make sure you’re getting the right size and fit, to trawling through reviews of the latest phone or tablet before heading to JB Hi-Fi to foot the bill.

These phenomena, known as showrooming and webrooming, leave retailers with an opportunity to create content that caters directly to these habits. Yet, so far, without a content marketing strategy that addresses these, they are losing sales opportunities.

With both trends continuing to grow, we see a space where content marketing plays a role in helping the retailer to better serve the customer, in both instances to drive in-store and online sales, in turn building longer term brand value.

When you think about a customer’s path to purchasing, showrooming and webrooming now form an integral part of this experience. Think of a time you might have looked at, say, a couple of different pairs of headphones online. You’ve read the reviews and weighed up the different specifications. You might have a pair in mind to purchase, but you go in store to try them out, and there’s one pair that’s slightly more comfortable than the others. This stage of buying is, as coined by Google, known as the Zero Moment of Truth.

While you could argue the Zero Moment of Truth isn’t exactly new news – it was identified in 2011 – marketers are still largely not addressing this behaviour or trying to encourage measurable interaction in store and online, therefore missing the opportunity to leverage this customer data to drive brand preference and product purchase.

We know people are looking at content before making their purchase decision. Even back in 2011, people viewed precisely 10.4 pieces of content. Yet, what’s missing is knowing what content is being looked at, why it’s sought out, when it’s viewed, how it influences customers, and how it varies from category to category.

Where do we begin, so we can start to put these pieces of the puzzle together? Retailers should map the customer’s showrooming and webrooming journey. Although the journey may vary, a general path can determine the opportunity to encourage an interaction that enables the brand to capture customer data or that can allow a nurture track to be actioned.

How do we encourage this interaction and harness those opportunities for the retailer’s benefit? For customers in store, we should be using each instance where they wander through the store dwelling on products to hit them with content. As they pick things up, try them on, press buttons, read labels and speak with staff, we have an opportunity for engagement. We can prompt people to view a product demonstration or brand video, follow a social media page, interact with an in-store screen, check online stock availability and delivery timeframes, enter a competition, join a content/rewards program, or download an app – the list of potential trackable interactions and messages to offer is vast.

With a trackable interaction, we can retarget content tracks in a way that is customer-friendly. Instead of allowing customers to leave the store, and to potentially purchase elsewhere, the retailer can communicate and boost sales results through a content marketing strategy.

While a customer is browsing online, or webrooming, we can use the same process to capture data like an email address or mobile number, and serve tracking pixels or cookies that allow the retailer to understand what the customer is doing online. This measurement of customer interaction is becoming incredibly rich with tools from Oracle, Adobe and Salesforce allowing highly granular measurement that can further drive content marketing actions.

Once a customer has finished browsing online, webrooming dictates they may then go in store to complete their purchase. With the right tracking and content marketing, a customer can be identified as they walk into the store through beacons or a similar alternative. The retailer could serve them customer service or product information based on browsing interest, prompt a customer service person to greet them personally, offer trend and style advice, store wayfinding, stock availability, influencer content, provide incentives to purchase, or deliver further ratings or reviews for the products they have shown interest in. Again, the content and messaging options are far-reaching, which further prescribes the need to get the content marketing strategy right.

There’s no doubt that the importance here is in developing a content marketing strategy and implementation that helps address the customer’s needs for both behaviours. Getting this right will, in turn, make marketing more effective, deliver better customer satisfaction, and improve sales, brand equity and customer endorsement.