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Getting Online and Offline Right as Revealed Through a Home Extension

Over the last 5 months, I have been busy with a home improvement extension to my house. As a consumer, I can see the patterns of buying behaviour others potentially have in this space. What is evident is that this type of project today is very much a mix of online and offline. In this blog I give an insight into my consumer buying patterns, as well as the impact on different types of retailers and brands.

Different Stages in the Consumer Project

Stage 1: Ideas for planning and design

Whether it was on the grand scale of the whole extension or on a smaller detailed element, there was always a concept and research stage in the purchase process. I went both online and in shops, starting with the bigger concept and then developing an idea of the detail.

Stage 2: The Build, DIY Action and Details

This is where action started. Some of my needs were:

    • Speed: Often I needed things quickly and waiting days or weeks was not an option.
    • Returns: I needed to be able to return it easily if it didn’t work out.
    • Product specific: After my initial concepts at each idea, I would start to get a very specific idea of what product I wanted. This is where the product level advertising plays a part. For example, with outside furniture, I wanted a rattan effect, brown, not black. I wanted a glass table top, not a plastic one. I knew the specifics of what I wanted and required my online search to find the relevant products quickly for me.
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  • Online and offline: In one situation, I had ordered an outdoor light online, but it was wrong, so I needed to find a replacement quickly before the electrician arrived. I searched for the specific light amongst Google Product Level Ads (PLAs), found one at a good price, reserved it and picked it up the same day. Online helped me know which retailer had the one I liked in stock and at what price. Offline helped me get it immediately and potentially return if any problems.

The Different Purposes of Online and Offline

What is clear is that the project was a blend of online and offline. Online to search for ideas, specific products, know who has them, at what price. Often, I would buy online only. Offline was for seeing and feeling the product, and being able to return it easily. Also for the immediacy.

What this Means for Retailers and Brands Selling Online or Online and Offline

  • Be visible in the places your customers are looking online, especially product level ads (PLAs)
    • Make sure your product data feeds are complete and high quality so that people can see you have what they want when browsing online and buy where they choose.
    • Be aware that customer research will potentially be a long process. Make sure you are visible on the channels they are looking at and ensure you have a good retargeting strategy to stay in their minds.
  • Keywords and images in product ads and on your site

Know the keywords customers are using. For example, I needed a ‘small toilet’ for a very small room, so I searched on small toilets. Some companies list that as compact or ‘short projection’. Get keywords like ‘small’ into the data feeds you send to different partners. Experiment to find out which text and images work best.

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  • Provide as much information as possible to inform the decision
Give people as much information as you can.
  • Be specific. If you can put sizes, materials and colours in, do. Use videos and a variety of images to let customers drill in for detail. All the sizes and specifics to make them feel comfortable.
  • Include local stock information where possible. If they don’t know you have it, customers won’t come into the store. If I am looking for something, I often start online, then will pop to a local shop as I can get it immediately and return it too.
  • Let people search and filter by how they think of the product – so give lots of options. Again, with bathrooms, some retailers wanted me to select whether it was a full pedestal or half pedestal but I was quite open – it just had to be small.

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  • Easy delivery and returns
  • Build the link between online and offline 
If you have stores, show me local stock information so I can get it instantly and give me more confidence to buy online by letting me know I can take it back to a local store if it is not right.

I have had a fascinating insight into the consumer perspective of online and offline. Retailers should try to think like a customer, from different perspectives and build an environment which combines online and offline that gives them the best of both worlds. Today’s consumer, I’m afraid, wants everything – knowledge, ideas, detail and price comparison online, as well as the ease of immediate collection, and the trying and returning that comes with offline.

Here at Intelligent Reach, we can help you get the right keywords, images and product information into your data feeds, so that you appear at the top of those searches for the right customers. Find out more about how we help you do this.

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As an aside - wondering what I found as my solution for my small toilet room?! An all in one toilet and sink. 

Ingenious!