June 26, 2013, 5:09 PM

Retailers can make better use of web content to drive store sales

Only 38% put information in social media about offline products and services, a study says.

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Many retailers that operate physical stores miss opportunities to use  online digital information as a sales tool, a new study from Econsultancy.com Ltd. and IBM Tealeaf says.

The leading tactic retailers use is to display on web sites content about stores, including their locations, operating hours and contact details, according to the “Reducing Customer Struggle 2013.”

But far fewer take advantage of other ways to link the online and offline retailing worlds. Only 38% provide information on products and services in social media, 28% QR codes consumers can scan for additional details and promotional offers online, and 9% personalized marketing content on digital signs.

The study is based on a global online survey conducted in March and April of more than 500 business professionals at companies involved in e-commerce and e-business. IBM Tealeaf is the digital customer experience management unit of IBM Corp.

The study also found that 72% of retailers plan to increase their investment in mobile strategies and that 74% said mobile was either “important” or “critical” to their overall business.

“The importance of focusing on the mobile customer experience is evidenced by the increased amount of traffic attributable to mobile devices, reflecting the increased importance of mobile both as a transactional channel and as part of multichannel consumer behavior,” the study says.

But the study adds: “While mobile is a focus for many companies, it is clear from this year’s research that wider online customer experience challenges still remain for many organizations, both in terms of understanding customers struggles and also addressing pain points” in shopping across online and offline channels.

Following are the percentages of respondents who said their company uses the following means of integrating digital and physical consumer experiences:

● Web site information about offline retail locations, contact details and operating hours, 63%

● Social media presence for offline products and services, 38%

● Web content optimized for mobile and local search, 31%

● QR codes, 28%

● Coupons or vouchers redeemable across channels, 26%

● Click-to-call buttons to let online shoppers speak to a customer service rep, 23%

● Reserve and collect, ordering online for in-store pickup, 18%

● In-store Wi-Fi, 17%

● In-store kiosks and tablet computers for online ordering, 16%

● Location-based mobile apps, 15%

● Third-party listing sites and apps, such as Yelp and Qype, 13%

● Bar code scanners, 12%

● Pop-up stores with online ordering, 11%

● Personalized marketing content on digital signage, 9%

● Near Field Communications in stores, 9% (NFC is a wireless technology for linking mobile phones and store equipment, such as payment terminals)

● Other, 6%

The study also says that some retailers deploy these cross-channel tools in ineffective ways. For example, with QR codes, which consumers scan with a mobile phone, many retailers direct consumers to web pages not designed to properly render on a mobile screen, the study says. QR, or Quick Response, codes are two-dimensional bar codes that consumers scan with a mobile device to link to web sites for such information as product details or promotional information.

The study notes that 32% of consumers in the United Kingdom and 41% in the United States have used a mobile device to locate a retailer’s store. But not all store locators work well, it adds.

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