Online presence drives store traffic: study

Safeway curtails its print ad spend, personalizes digital ads, and sees high acceptance of e-coupons at its website.

Retailers understand a strong online presence can drive traffic to stores where, if they merchandise, price, assort and execute well, any sales are possible.   

The intriguing part of this two-world merge is how to intrigue shoppers.  A new study by Wanderful Media, Technology Blurs the Line of Online vs. In-Store Shopping:  A Survey of Consumers Who Use Mobile Devices to Shop, dissects what people respond to online, and their preferences and purchase behaviors as they move between online and in-store.  Wanderful, backed by various newspaper publishers, helps local stores bring in customers and helps customers find local merchandise.

F3 sees helpful lessons in this report for food stores, who are trying to beat back trip encroachment by other channels, and who in many communities should be able to leverage a hometown edge because they are locally owned businesses that sell locally grown foods.  

Safeway is a larger operator already personalizing digital ads and curtailing print ad spending, chairman and CEO Steve Burd told analysts in a recent call. The chain’s Just For U online loyalty program is now at 45% of its shopping base (5.4 million U.S. households), could reach 55% by the end of 2013, and could cap at about 65%, reports Ad Age, quoting president Robert Edwards as being “surprised” by the volume of digital coupons users access on the Safeway website.

According to the Wanderful survey of 1,027 U.S. adults who’ve used their mobile devices to shop, 91% “have gone into a store because of an online experience.”  An e-mail promotion prompted 60%, an online coupon led 59%, and an online ad for a sale drove 56% to go to a store.

Research findings also revealed:

  • 77% have searched online for product information while shopping in a store.  Millennials are the likeliest to do this (85%).  Most used smartphones (92%), while 34% used tablets. The information clicked for them—62% wound up buying the item they looked up, about half in-store (49%) and about half online (48%).
  • Consumers see different strengths in online and in-store environments.  They say online is better to research purchases (71%) and find specific items (59%), but in-store is better to return goods (64%), know exactly what they’re buying (53%), and establish a relationship with the merchant (51%). 
  • People split their attention while shopping online—63% also watch television, 28% socialize with friends, 24% are in a coffee shop or restaurant, and 22% commute.  Gen X is the most likely to watch TV (71%) when online shopping, while Millennials are most likely to be mixing with friends (36%).
  • Impulse shopping happens more in stores than online.  Three-quarters of respondents (74%) bought on impulse in a store, and 65% have done so online during the month before the survey.  Only browsing in a store (60%) drew a majority response as a prompt of impulse buys.  Promotional e-mails (42%), window shopping (36%), being shown other items when checking out online (27%) and newspaper circulars (23%) were the next-highest sales triggers.
  • - Comparing traditional with online social media, newspaper circulars (23%) inspired impulse buys more than Facebook (22%), Twitter (13%) or Pinterest (13%).