The Key to Attracting First-time Customers
Rob Anderson of the Run Free Project, an RIA associate member providing online commerce solutions on platforms for run specialty retailers, was skeptical of that statistic when he first heard it. But, then he observed his family picking out a restaurant while on vacation. Their search started online. Thinking about his habits and observing others, he realized how accurate the statistic is for today’s consumers.
Though the shopping experience for running stores is founded on a great in-store customer experience, the majority of those customers “are leaning into this digital-first discovery process” for finding and selecting which store to visit, Anderson explained.
“Being easy to find online is such a humongous part of attracting new customers, the running store will get a substantially better return on investment by having an online presence that is easy to find, accurate, simple, dynamic, and modern feeling,” he said.
Because most new customers will be exposed to a running store through a Google profile and a website, it pays to have an updated, credible, relatable online presence. “And this is the interesting part,” he said, “If you are a first-time visitor on a store’s website, you will look at the ecommerce store to see what brands are carried and see what is in stock, then you will hop in your car and go to the store,”
According to consumer research, 76% of people who conduct a local business search on their smartphones visit a physical business within 24 hours. “With such a massive number, those searches really do invoke a great deal of intent (to purchase),” he added.
Because almost everybody will learn about running stores online, and most of those people will come to the store to shop, companies that recognize this and position their online presence to take advantage will be most successful.
He illustrates the customer interaction process as starting with exposure to first-time customers, advancing to engagement in the store, and following through with fostering a relationship by building a community of customers. While running retailers are great at paying attention to the second two steps, they often overlook or don’t spend enough time on the first step.
“There are lots of tricks that these stores can do to rise to the top of that google search when it happens. And it doesn’t involve spending money,” he said. “First is paying attention to the google business profile and getting some pictures in there, incentivizing people to leave reviews, and checking the profile every month or so to make sure if google has introduced some new functionality, you are taking advantage of it.”
Then, to improve searchability of a store’s website, he recommends posting new content through a blog or other webpages weekly or at least twice a month. Adding new content regularly to a website will help businesses rise to the top of that 97% of customers who search online for local businesses.
“Remember: online isn’t just about ecommerce; it’s about the way every single person minus 3% of consumers find a store that they’re interested in for the very first time. And you’ve got to make sure you’re there, no matter what,” he concluded.
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