We Can Rebuild Offline Retail, We Have the Technology

The gap between retail winners and losers in Asia is widening, with one key differentiator: measurement. Black Friday 2017 drew crowds of snaking lines around Asia’s shopping districts. At the same time, it also drew equally long lines of social posts, which potentially leads to store visits, but that connection needs to be clear. As customer behaviour increasingly revolves around mobile, today’s retail winners must use technology to measure the effectiveness of their online spend on offline sales. Only then can they understand, attract and retain today’s consumers.

Offline Goes Experiential

The tangibility of bricks-and-mortar will never go out of style, and that firmly cements offline’s role in retail. An experiential retail concept can lead to an online feedback loop: social is ideal for both discovering new products and sharing experiences. By enabling a shareable, photo or video-worthy moment involving a product, brands can potentially create a self-perpetuating sales engine.

Fortunately, CRM systems and publishers such as Facebook and Google are making it easier to see how online actions influence offline buying. Integrating data sources between point-of-sale and digital advertising platforms is now more seamless than ever.

Validate Online, Purchase Offline

Offline purchases – even for fast-moving goods – could be the culmination of a long tail of research, engagement on social, existing relationships with the brand and sometimes, friend envy. For instance, consumers are likely to want to learn more about a product before reaching a purchase decision. The influence of Research Online, Purchase Offline (ROPO) on retail is well-documented enough to have its own Wikipedia article. Notably in Asia, ‘research’ may be more weighted towards social opinions than product facts. A recent study on consumer preferences in the region finds that “external social validation is a powerful force for the Asian consumer”. Peer approval of a product could influence purchase behaviour, and social media is ideal for showing peer approval.

Data-driven Retail Marketing

Even though social may be a strong driver, integration with other data sources is needed to maximise effectiveness. A creative may generate high top-of-funnel reach and engagement, but does that translate to sales? Connect records of in-person meetings, bookings, store purchases or other sales metrics to digital advertising campaign data to measure the real impact. Transaction data can then be used to retarget buyers of certain products or categories with the next product or service you’d like them to buy.

By using tools like custom audiences and lookalike audiences, and excluding in-store purchasers, brands can also find and target new, high-value local prospects. Given the diversity of the region, offline conversion measurement is essential to learning the correlation between products, value propositions or even influencers seen online, to purchases offline.

These insights can then inform future creatives and campaigns. For instance, a bubble tea chain filtering for high-value transactions could reveal an uptick in bulk orders at outlets near business districts towards the festive season. Extrapolating the social and seasonal context could inspire a creative about celebrating the holidays with colleagues, targeting the office district. A/B testing against a product-centric seasonal ad, then measuring for offline conversions will reveal the effectiveness of each value proposition.

The maturing of mobile, CRM systems and digital advertising calls for a new approach to retail marketing in Asia. The region’s unique culture, growth trajectory and mobile influence makes it an exciting time to be a retailer. The first step is to connect offline sales to the digital ecosystem.

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