We know in-store shopping isn’t dead yet, even as consumers increasingly buy online across most categories. Six out of 10 web shoppers make 21% or more of their purchases online—moreover, when you look specifically at Millennials, that number increases to 66%. But consumers still seem to be looking for that close connection with brands: new research shows that 59% prefer to research and 55% want to shop directly on brand sites rather than a multi-brand retailer. This is especially true for Millennials, who, more than other demographics, were more likely prefer brand websites to multi-brand retailers. This speaks directly to the perception that Millennials are looking to engage more with specific brands and deepen their relationships with them.
Why Brands Sites Matter
We’ve often discussed the importance of having an omnichannel strategy and a seamless brand experience across all touchpoints, but this is why it matters: one-third of Millennials strongly agree that brand sites are more sophisticated, with superior merchandising and shopping experiences than the retailers that sell their products. At the same time, one-in-three consumers said that in-store visits prompted them to visit a brand’s website. This underscores the fact that consumers want to immerse themselves in brand experiences and strongly identify with a brand’s culture. Brands that develop lifestyle content and in-store experiences that resonate with shoppers tend to draw users in, engage them, and keep them coming back—both online and off.
How Social Drives Shopping
Ninety-five percent of Millennials follow a brand on social media and 51% report clicking on a social media ad (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) to learn more about an advertised product. Above all other media, social is the top driver to brand websites, followed by ads on search engines (47%), and recommendations from family or friends (38%). Developing strategic paid social and SEM strategies—as well as broader marketing that raises overall awareness—is no longer optional and this research suggests that its influence will only continue to grow.
On-Site: Content is King
Just as sensory features like visuals, music, and scents play a role in the in-store experience, features and functionality define the experience for online shoppers. Consumers say that sites must be easy to navigate, have complete product information, and rich product detail pages (zoom, alternate views, color change, spin, video); in addition, free shipping and clear return policies are cited as “very important” to shoppers. Other consumer-favorite enhancements include; user-generated content, how-to styling tips, “lifestyle” images, and live chat functionality.
Help Consumers Decide
Brand websites are uniquely positioned to help consumers solve problems or easily find products they seek. Your SEO strategy may help them to find your website, but enhanced functionality can assist consumers to find the right products once they arrive. Tools that aid in conversion include enhanced apparel sizing features that help choose the right fit, product finders that use quizzes to guide to the right product, or customization tools that allow consumers to personalize products. As technology improves, virtual or augmented reality may enable consumers to better visualize how a garment may look on them or how furniture may fit into their home. A third of Millennials expressed interest in using VR or AR technology for these purposes and increasingly they can help differentiate your brand.
As consumers move away from big-box anonymity and look for brands they can identify with, marketers have an opportunity to engage them both in-store and online. Creating one-of-a-kind experiences that both showcase their products and offer an aspirational, yet attainable lifestyle will click with Millennials. Women’s Marketing offers a suite of marketing services that helps indie brands win. Contact us to learn more about out search marketing capabilities, strategic social media advertising, and more.
Sources: Astound Commerce 2017 Global Brand Shopper Survey Digital and In-Store Insights 2017