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The year 2016 provided us with some very useful information on the likely evolution of web-to-store over the coming years. In particular, we saw Google announce the introduction of a new function offering consumers a new way of getting into contact with points of sale: by way of instant messaging.

The year 2017 will be the year of interactions

At the same time, we noticed the trend of point of sale managers getting more involved in the online promotion of their physical outlets.

The challenge for 2017 will therefore be to understand the types of interaction consumers want when contacting your brands and the role of local managers in implementing these conversations.

Does it make sense ?

When you consider that 40% of local searches generate immediate activation (source: consumerbarometer.com), the answer is a resounding yes. We’ve evolved into a hyper-consumption society where consumers are used to wanting everything straight away. Instant messaging will allow them to directly contact points of sale and ask their questions before visiting, such as making sure the product they want is available.

Winning brands will be the ones that make life easier for consumers using these interactions

At the end of 2016, the most common interactions were fairly simple to implement and manage :

  1. Route calculation proposal
  2. Proposal to call points of sale directly
  3. Submitting an opinion and a rating for a business
  4. The possibility of subscribing to a newsletter

In the near future, much more complex conversations will take place beyond the point of sale, made possible by new technology, such as the chatbots developed by Sephora, which use a mobile messaging app to give women advice on choosing skin products.

In a web-to-store context, chatbots will be able to interact with consumers in order to help them perform a host of activities :

  • Draw up a shopping list
  • Book a table in a restaurant
  • Reserve a product in-store
  • Check whether products people search for are in stock
  • Identify the presence of a car park close by and possibly booking a spot in it
  • Get information on the length of checkout queues
  • Suggest they visit the store at another time that suits them best
  • Choose a product
  • Choose another item if the desired product is no longer available
  • Etc.

Brands need to reinvent the tools implemented on their websites in order to respond to this demand and hold conversations with their consumers.

And where do the managers fit into all this ?

Managers will have a key role to play in this conversational commerce scenario, namely implementing the technology that will generate more traffic to their points of sale.

This will involve the direct management of their POS identity data (addresses, opening hours, etc.), staging local promotions and activating real conversations.

This trend will also give rise to a new challenge for marketing departments in terms of supporting their network with the implementation of these conversations. Their role will revolve around providing managers and franchisees with the tools required for these interactions (databases, local CMSs, content publication tools, etc.), as well as the necessary training for holding these conversations.

To do list for 2017

As 2016 draws to a close, it should be safe to assume that brands are capable of supplying the content, identifying available stock levels and managing the online presence of their points of sale.

If that’s not the case, the priority should be to get to that point ASAP or risk seeing point-of-sale traffic dwindle.

If it’s already the case, the next phase focuses on interactions, which is how to ensure that best possible use is made of all content and knowledge available in order to drive the conversations between your points of sale and consumers.


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