March 30, 2010, 12:00 AM

The principles that boost store sales apply on the web as well, report says

More time spent shopping, good signage and a flow that encourages exploration all can help boost sales online, as well as in stores, says a new report.

With more consumers shopping online, as well as in bricks-and-mortar stores, it’s important for retailers to provide a consistent shopping experience, says a new report from retail consulting firm Envirosell and online recommendations technology vendor RichRelevance Inc. And many of the principles that apply to stores can be applied to the web as well, the report says.

To document the extent of cross-channel shopping, the two companies surveyed shoppers last November outside four major New York City stores-Macy’s, The Gap, Best Buy and Apple store. They found 88% of shoppers surveyed said they had shopped the web site of the retailer whose store they were visiting, 75% said visiting the web site helped them shop in-store, 85% compared prices online, 44% visited a competitor’s web site and 26% planned to visit the retailer’s web site to shop after leaving the store.

Studies show that stores can boost sales by keeping shoppers in the store longer, providing good signage and providing an easy way for shoppers to get to where they want to go. The same principles of time, signage and flow can be applied to web sites as well, says the report entitled “Respect the Shopper: Harmonizing the Cross-Channel Experience.”

Here are the author’s suggestions in each area:

  • Time: With shoppers increasingly coming to retail sites from search engines, they are less likely to start at a retailer’s home page. To keep shoppers on a site longer, each potential landing page must be designed to engage the customer and the site should respond with offers and messaging tailored to the individual visitor. “Online, time spent shopping is perhaps even more critical than in physical stores, because of the ease with which online shoppers can, with a click of the mouse, go elsewhere.”
  • Signage: Recommendations are the online equivalent of signage; just as chips and salsa are nearby in a store, displaying complementary products helps guide shoppers online. “Information about product categories, offers, promotions and prices must be carried consistently across channels, throughout the entire customer experience. Customers need to know they are shopping the same brand.”
  • Flow: While most stores have one or two entrances, web sites have many, as search engines can lead shoppers to many pages. E-commerce sites should recognize past customers and dynamically personalize landing pages for new visitors based on what’s known about them, to make it easier for shoppers of all types to find what they want on the site. Landing pages that include some form of personalization are 41% more likely to lead to clicks further into a site, the report says. The report notes that online shopping is a self-service activity and that studies show many consumers would welcome the e-retailer offering help.

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