How location-based technology can bridge the gap between online and in-store shopping

Retail marketers are increasingly using location-based technology to bridge the gap between online and in-store shopping.

As Southeast Asia’s retail sector continues to evolve at breakneck speed, there’s a common misconception that marketing and sales innovations can only happen in the digital space. 

If that was true, why then, do brands continue to open physical stores and brand pop-ups? Has the death of brick-and-mortar been greatly exaggerated?

Take Love, Bonito, for example. This ecommerce fashion platform has bucked the trend and opened a physical store in Singapore’s Funan mall, even after experiencing immense success online. Other market signals – such as how Jakarta will gain five new malls between 2018 and 2020 – may indicate the future of retail is more complex than ruling the digital space. 

But brands’ perception of digital is completely understandable. After all, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for e-commerce in the region has increased by 62 per cent in the past three years, according to one study. When combined with the number of traditional physical stores closing, this may seem to paint a mall-less future of only pure-play online stores in Southeast Asia. 

But brands know customers value in-person interactions, so many have pivoted to a multi-channel approach where they have both a physical and digital presence. Although this is the right way forward, brands still face the challenge of bridging the divide between their digital and in-store channels. 

So, what’s the answer? A recent study by Resulticks found Southeast Asian brands moving toward omnichannel solutions to plug these gaps, leveraging  location-based technology, QR codes, and more to deliver an elevated customer experience across touchpoints. But what do these technologies really mean for an integrated offline-to-online marketing strategy, and how can brands start to plan for an integrated omnichannel approach? 

Building an omnichannel bridge 

An omnichannel strategy refers to a marketing concept where a brand leverages multiple channels to engage with their target audiences in a highly coordinated and seamless way that ensures a customer’s experience “flows” seamlessly across all relevant channels. A well-executed omnichannel strategy also aims to understand customers’ needs deeply, so that brands can engage in a timely, personalised and meaningful way. 

Envisioning how a cross-channel strategy can work in the digital space (for example, email, social media, apps, SMS and websites) requires minimal effort, but to go truly omnichannel and bridge the online-to-offline divide demands much more work, as well as the need for brands to overcome some physical and technological barriers. To do this, many have turned to location- and QR-code technology. 

Location-based technology typically shares location data and provides alerts when someone comes near or within a particular physical distance, such as when a car booked from a ride-sharing app comes within a certain area of the pick-up location. As for QR codes, the scannable blocks trigger digital actions, offering brands a tangible way to get consumers to engage digitally. This can be done by the code prompting customers to download an app to their mobile devices, receive a discount coupon or be directed to a sign-up page. 

These technologies act as connecting pathways between customers’ physical experiences and a brand’s digital infrastructure. Consider a retail brand’s app that shares location data (with a customer’s knowledge and permission, of course). It could alert store staff when a high-value customer walks in. The staff could then access that customer’s engagement history, including sales history, any unresolved support tickets or even recent catalogue searches. This equips the on-ground team to provide personalised service without the customer needing to request specific items or information. 

In another example, a beauty brand could provide QR codes for each of its products that, when scanned, direct customers to an in-depth product page with usage instructions, ingredients and perhaps even a discount coupon. This brand could also collect and analyse this interaction to build a new customer profile or enhance an existing one with information about this customer’s preferences to deliver an even more personalised experience. 


Getting started 

Redickaa Subrammanian is founder and CEO of Resulticks.

To fully leverage the possibilities of these technologies, brands must first get their omnichannel foundations right, which always starts with data. Building an integrated data pool requires compiling data from multiple sources – including traditionally siloed data – into a single database, providing a singular, comprehensive “source of truth” across all channels. 

Starting with data also enables brands to build the all-important 360-customer view – a detailed customer profile that encompasses demographics, past interactions, preferences, propensities and more. This in-depth customer view will also help brands plot how they want to weave together offline and online interactions for their target customers, and they will be able to continuously assess, attribute and optimize these experiences.

At the end of the day, it is up to brands to figure out what insights from their customer 360-degree view can be used to make engagements more meaningful. But by integrating online and offline experiences, retailers can use a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of customers to drive more personalised engagement.

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