Now that 2016 is almost over, we can draw some conclusions from a year that was full of web-to-store developments in Europe. This year was marked by the onset of a growth phase that should continue over the next five years.
2016, a pivotal year for web-to-store
We saw that innovative retailers weren’t the only ones implementing web-to-store. The truth is, a great number of brand-name retailers of all types have decided to get into the act by using the Internet to generate traffic in their points of sale.
As 2017 approaches, only a few stragglers haven’t thought about implementing web-to-store.
Lacking a true strategic framework
At Mobilosoft, it clearly seems that all of this is being done without any real vision. Companies with a retail network (restaurants, supermarkets, clothing stores, etc.) are still too often influenced by service providers offering them web-to-store products and services. What’s still missing is a framework for these activities within a comprehensive web-to-store strategic vision. Companies should be asking themselves some of the following questions:
- What Internet points of contact do I have with my consumers, and how can I link them to my points of sale?
- How can my points of sale be placed at the centre of my Web activities?
- How can the in-store experience be reflected on the Internet in order to make consumers want to visit my points of sale?
- How can I best help consumers as a function of their purchasing journey and their location with respect to my points of sale?
In 2017, it will be time to master and deal with the following basic questions:
- Are my points of sale listed properly in Google?
- Is my Store Locator optimised properly?
- Have my specific business hours been implemented properly?
Today these must be acquired and fully integrated by retailers’ marketing departments.
Supporting growing demand from consumers
One thing for sure is that 2016 was marked by extensive use by consumers of mobile browsing tools.
In one year, we have seen a 30% growth in the Internet visibility of our clients’ points of sale, and activations have gone through the roof. The number of calls to these points of sale from search and geolocation media has doubled, and requests for directions have gone up by a factor of almost five. On our clients’ Store Locators, we noticed that one out of every two visits leads to activation as a point of sale.
On the consumers’ side, we also saw an increasing need for interactions. The number of comments and reviews given by consumers has also grown considerably (between 5 to 9 comments a day in late December versus 4 or 5 a month at the start of the year).
Increasing importance placed on data processing quality
The time when any agency could claim to be a web-to-store expert is now over. This year, a lot of effort was made by the market to considerably improve the quality of information on the Internet. We have been very enthusiastic about the many requests from our media partners to optimise data flows, whether it was to suggest standardised formats, increase updating frequency or work on the precision of GPS coordinates. There is no comparison between the work needed for point of sale address management today and what was being done a year ago. A real partnership in quality tracking has been put in place, based on our work with retailers, browsing media/apps such as Google Maps and Apple Plan, and our production teams. This unique partnership functions on four points:
- An increase in updating frequency, which for some retailers and some media, has been done up to three times a day
- An increase in the quantity of data updated, with the addition of filters, options and offers
- An increase in quality standards by some media, which now enable us to tell retailers about the errors in the data sheets they send us
- An improvement in the way data flows are exchanged, with automation being increasingly used to develop many APIs
Keeping one big question in mind: the overhaul of Google+
These questions have become increasingly important, as the year has gone on: What’s going to happen with Google+?
Are they going to keep the pages? Will we still be able to post content? Will pages be more visible in the future? For some, this may appear intentionally vague. And as usual, Google isn’t communicating much about its changes or the strategies put in place with its product portfolio. As privileged users of Google My Business (with nearly 20,000 points of sale under management), we have noticed the increasing complexity of point of sale management in Google My Business, owing to a large number of new functions. As well, Google is pushing more of its Google My Business users to direct their marketing budgets towards its AdWords, Shopping and Display solutions. It’s all becoming more coherent and should be further enhanced in the months to come.
We are therefore confident that Google is preparing something big for local pages.
How to get ready for the future?
The web-to-store environment is getting more complex and more professional. If retailers want to benefit from these initiatives in order to generate more foot traffic in their stores and more sales, they need to work on defining their strategy. To do this, three steps are needed:
- Start by identifying what they have to offer consumers by combining two elements: the Internet and their points of sale
- Understand how these two elements can be included in the consumer journey
- Define budgets, goals and performance measurement tools
Let's analyse your Web-to-Store and identify together the right strategy to help generate Web-to-Store Traffic.