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The Multi-Media Retail Store

1 Sep, 2008 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response

Today's retailers are finding that the only way to compete is to sell products in every outlet that the consumer is browsing — from traditional venues, such as store shelves and television, to more modern channels, such as online social communities and mobile.


 

A Vast Retail Landscape

 

Most marketers are finding that in order to reach customers, they have to produce campaigns and offer sales in multiple media channels. Many retailers do this by differentiating the products they sell online to those offline, or offer coupons online that drive customers into the local store. Also, some stores offer online-only discounts; products often posted on the Internet require a lower margin because they don't require shelf space.

"We use brick-and-mortar stores to drive customers back to the online experience and the Web site drives in-store traffic," says GSI's Pahade.

Shanler of Staples agrees that the Web site is a perfect way to complement the retail stores. "Online advertising gives Staples an opportunity to reach audience members where they spend their time online, which then brings them to our Web site for offers and insights into store promotions," she says.

Borders Group Inc., the book and entertainment seller based in Ann Arbor, Mich., calls itself a true cross-channel retailer. "We bring a real bookstore experience to life online at borders.com and conversely, we are bringing borders.com to stores, giving people the opportunity to order items they can't find in the store online and have them shipped to their home or back to the store," says Jessica Harley, vice president of acquisition and retention marketing at Borders.

For example, Borders' kiosks allow customers to log onto borders.com while visiting the store and in-store events are videotaped and posted on the Web for at-home viewing. Harley says this customer-centric integrated marketing strategy is focused on "how customers shop across channels versus one or the other."

Borders focuses primarily on E-mail direct marketing through the Shortlist — a weekly E-mail for its Rewards members. In addition, the company uses search engine marketing (SEO), affiliate marketing, direct mail and some print and mobile marketing.

It's the loyalty program that has been extremely profitable for driving sales. Rewards members get weekly discounts, and guidance on what books, movies and music titles to buy. "We know that we can boost traffic and sales through the Shortlist, and we know that our Borders Rewards members are our best customers," says Harley. But, as Harley warns, it's a critical relationship that stores have to be careful not to exploit and push too far.

Jockey's marketing team also reaches customers that shop in-store and online, and in addition, in catalogs. "Your best customers are people willing to engage with you in all the places you do business, so you need to use consistent messaging so that they're not confused," says Chris Smith, vice president of catalog and E-commerce for Jockey.

And no matter where a retailer reaches out to customers, it's important to recreate that in-store feeling across all mediums. Today's online shopper doesn't just put an item in a basket and check out. They read reviews of the product, do price comparisons, blog with other customers and watch the product being used on video. Customers want the complete in-store experience online.

Jockey's recent attempt to reach out to customers to improve the online experience was the summer wedding dress guide at jockey.com/dress. The idea was to create an encounter that was similar to being in a store and working with a salesperson. It launched at the end of June, in conjunction with wedding season (and will be updated for the holiday season), as a way to help a woman pick the correct undergarments for the style and shape of her dress.

Overstock.com is an example of a retailer that only exists online, in the E-commerce world. But DeVon Fowler, a marketer in charge of customer acquisitions and direct mail for overstock.com, says there is an advantage to being online and not a brick-and-mortar store. He contends that a company can carry more of what the customer wants than a local store because they do not need the physical storage space. E-tailers can also more quickly place new orders for products, since the results of a depleting stock are known immediately.

"It's all about the customer and talking to them through the medium they're interested in," says Fowler. Overstock customers tend to be busy women, looking for housewares and clothing, who prefer the convenience of online shopping and the cost savings of a strictly online retailer to going to an actual department store.

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