A full 83% of site visitors today come to REI.com to research or evaluate products and with no specific purchase intent – making the web site a critical hub in cross-merchandising efforts, REI e-commerce manager of merchandising and marketing Ben Viscon told attendees at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 last week.
He underscored the importance of the cross-channel connection to REI’s total merchandising and marketing effort with data from an internal analysis showing that 50% of the visitors who come to REI.com directly rather than from another referral source clicked first on its store locator function. “That’s about 25 million visitors, curious about one of our stores,” he said.
He noted that 38% of those who make a purchase after visiting REI.com do not do so on the initial visit but return to purchase up to six days later. “It’s important to us to realize the value in the traffic that is coming to the site and merchandise and market to them accordingly,” Viscon said.
In REI’s cross-channel merchandising strategy, that means sharing customer data gleaned from the site for use in other channels. For example, information from ratings and reviews on REI.com fed the creation of in-store products display signage featuring the products rating icons used on the web site, giving in-store shoppers a point of reference to what they’ve seen on the site and in-store staff another tool to use in discussing products with shoppers. Similarly, web page content does double duty in supporting call center staff in answering customer service and product questions, he added.
REI is noting increasing customer use of its mobile site and app to find its stores and read about and compare products. REI is piloting an extension of how it uses mobile by testing the use of tablets and other handheld devices by staff in stores, to assist customers, Viscon said. The pilot, in a limited number of REI stores, leverages the expanded assortment on REI.com by putting it at staff members’ fingertips. Store staff can place orders from the handheld device if the product is not in stock, he said.
Online visibility into in-store inventory status, launched last year, is another cross channel merchandising integration. “This bring a better-informed, highly convertible customer into the store, he said. REI is reviewing fulfillment of online orders from individual stores as a possible extension of the program, he added