Online-to-offline (O2O) Strategies to Grow your Retail Business

If you are a brick-and mortar retailer, do you feel like you’re losing out to online businesses?
Well, you shouldn’t.

According to a Garter survey, 98% of marketers say online and offline marketing are merging and this brings about a brand new future of growth and opportunities.

Simply put, you ought to be excited and start learning as much as you can about O2O ideas, search for resources and find new tools so that you are not left behind.

What is O2O marketing? How can you connect online and offline to grow revenue for your retail stores? How do you bring your physical business online? Is e-Commerce a viable option?

In this article, we will share the basics of O2O marketing on both online and offline channels, what will be effective, and the retail tactics you can use to sky-rocket your business.

What is O2O?

By definition, O2O (an abbreviation of online-to-offline) is a system that entices customers from a digital online channel and drive them in-store, to brick-and-mortar locations. This means, potential buyers are pitched to using online promotional methods. The goal is to eventually drive them to physical stores where they will potentially end up making purchases of services or products.

What  are the O2O Success Factors?

Innovation and technology has brought ample opportunities for O2O commerce. There are multiple reasons why O2O will continue to prevail in the shopper marketing industry, and by which we will cover some of them below.

The Speed & Sophistication of Data & Analytics

An O2O strategy is mostly about data. To effectively bring online shoppers to offline retailers, you have to use analytics effectively. The better you understand your buyers, the more useful the data you can collect and it will be easy to sell them more stuffs in the future.

Thankfully, obtaining valuable buyers’ info with data science is fast and sophisticated. So with more refined data, you can bring about a seamless and improved buyer’s journey. This in turn will make a stronger impression of the brand of your product and services.

The Convenience of Location-Based Services

Mobile is one of the fastest scaling technologies to date. With the convenience of mobile in everyone’s hand, many retailers and brands can attract more in-store targeted shoppers with creative location-based advertising campaigns.

Thanks to the mobile platform and available insights that come with it, you can be with your prospects almost throughout their entire shopper’s journey. Constant meaningful engagements at the most relevant time for them will lead to higher conversion and buyer satisfaction.

The Ease of Personalization

At the present day, we’re living in a hyper-connected world with hyper-connected consumers. Delivering intimate experience to your customers is super important.

What’s more, it has to be delivered authentically so that you appear genuine. This allows them to feel valued and appreciated.

  • 81% of consumers want brands to understand them better and know when and when not to approach them. (Source: Accenture)
  • Over 55% of marketers use a combination of insights and buyer feedback to make decisions on how to personalize promotional messages. (Source: BrightEdge)
  • 94% of marketers focus on data and analytics capabilities, personalization technologies, and customers’ profile management to deliver intimate and highly personalized experience. (Source: Forrester)

Thankfully we have metrics and customer feedback with powerful deep learning algorithms to churn out insightful information. This allows delivery of highly precise marketing campaigns for specific target segment.

To create content that engages and delight the targeted demographic, retailers need to focus on a few key things: the customer’s behavior and also to understand them at a granular level.

This calls for the organization to realign its business goals by placing users’ experience as the bottom-line initiative.

Flexible and Secure Payment Options

One of the most revolutionary inventions for the finance industry to date is probably the blockchain: a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger.

This technology allows digital information to be distributed but not copied, therefore each individual piece of information will only have one owner. This means transactions can now be highly secured. This allows all sorts of payment applications such as digital wallets, e-banking, etc.

With the advancement of tech in security, more people will be comfortable with high-value transactions, thus increasing the volume of online commerce.

8 Ways to Embrace O2O Retail Marketing

  • Increase customer online loyalty – with programs and rewards to be redeemed offline

Engaging with and maintaining constant contact with your online audience is the first step to impact customer loyalty. There are some easy yet creative methods that you can deploy to do this.

For instance, you could run incentivized online surveys. When your customers receive their rewards after participating in the poll, they can visit your nearest store to redeem the incentive. This way, you will also raise your brand awareness, making it always be “top-of-mind” amongst your customers.

This is a good example where you can concurrently collect valuable info from your targeted audience too.

  • Create a strong web presence

Part of O2O tactics is about reaching out and engaging with your audience online. As such, you need to maximize or redesign your website and web presence, either through a strong social media outreach, your emailing list or maybe even an e-commerce store. Any of these online channels can be used to offer product or service news, give out freebies, answering questions and even chat. This will engage your audience and further promote your brand.

One way to build up authority for your web presence is to have a content strategy that you can share. Build out strong topic clusters related to your industry that can help your targeted demographics. When you share your expertise to your targeted prospects, you will create more credibility and your business will be deemed as a subject matter expert in your niche.

At the same time, choose a good SEO company to help you create strong rankings on organic search results. If you combine search engine marketing (SEM/paid search) with SEO (organic search), you will have a bigger presence on the search result page the major search engines. Read up on SEO success stories here.

By turning your audience into raving fans, your followers will help spread the word on your business through “word-of-mouth”. In fact, friends-recommending-friends is the best and most effective marketing technique to have.

Another major benefit is that it is totally free.

Omnichannel presence

Online to Offline Marketing Tactic: Social Media Presence

Depending on your business type and demographic, you will need create the marketing channels or social media accounts accordingly. Try to connect with your audience through platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Each of these platforms has its own audience demographics that may be appealing to each of your buyer’s persona groups.

The way to select the channels is to understand your targeted customers—where do they usually spend time online and where do they get information about your products or services.

These social media accounts should be part of your engagement strategy. Using the platform, you’d want to build a certain level of credibility among your target fans or followers.

Business Listings

Online to Offline Marketing: Business Listing

Google My Business (formerly known as Google Places) is an online listing for local businesses. It is one of the most important lists you need to be on now.

  • 73% of all online activities are related to local content (Google)
  • 82% of local searchers follow up with a phone call or show up on your doorstep (TMP/comScore)

To make sure you have a good listing, you need to complete filling in the fields in the Google My Business form. You can follow these steps to add, verify and include your business on Google Maps.

Once your listing is approved, your retail outlet can be found in local organic search results in Google. If your listing is optimized for certain keyword search phrases related to your business, then you will get a good flow of consumers finding your website on Google (which is FREE) and coming to your physical store.

  • Rich media, location-based & personalized advertising

To further engage your audience, your multi-channel marketing plan can start with rich-media and personalized advertising, based on your targeted demographic’s location.

For example, let’s say you own a restaurant and it’s at a business district. Consequently, you want to conduct an incentivized online survey among your existing patrons.

You’d want to target the advertisement to the crowd who is in the vicinity in the morning and probably have visited your store. Then you’d want them to complete the survey and walk-in in the afternoon to redeem their lunch reward.

Rich media advertising is highly engaging and by combining geo-targeting and personalized messaging, it can create impactful results for your business.

  • Flexible payment methods

Paying items online with a credit card is the standard strategy. However, more people are embracing digital wallets these days. To ensure your omnichannel marketing becomes a hit , you’d want to offer different ways for the clients to pay.

Equally important, you should consider cash-on-delivery or pickup on top of online payments and e-wallets too.

  • Flexible Delivery/Pickup

In an online-to-offline framework, logistics is one of the areas most companies overlook. It is an essential step in providing exceptional customer experience. Increasingly, BOPIS or “buy-online-pickup-in-store” is a fulfillment option that is gaining popularity.

This option is also useful to target the potentials who are still slightly skeptical towards purchasing online. By allowing them to pick up their items in-store themselves, they are also likely to make more purchases from websites or mobile apps.

This is because the more reasons you give them to trust you, the more likely they are to order from you.

  • Integrate IoT/AR/VR

Today, many real estate agencies have moved to virtual reality (VR) to sell their properties off the plan. Beside real estate, in many markets like retail, you can also use VR to administer an exceptional virtual shopping experience for your buyers.

Taking a step further, augmented reality (AR) allows you to connect the online and offline worlds as well. This way you will give an even more engaging experience for your customers.

A perfect example of an innovative AR application in O2O commerce is by Sephora.

In 2017, Sephora launched a dedicated AR app that lets users virtually try different makeup products from the comfort of their home. This way, the shoppers will know which products to pick up at the store.

According to the company, since the launch of the app, 200 million shades have been tried. Talk about getting creative for success!

If you think VR/AR is a bit overwhelming, you can do a simple IoT(Internet of Things) integration. For instance, you can install a tablet in a fashion retail store’s changing room to help buyers get fashion ideas or request for size and colors.

  • Gamification

Collecting points online after playing games or performing specific tasks, then redeem your rewards using the points. This is common.

In fact, this online marketing technique that brings shoppers to your physical store is nothing new. Retail gamification is actually a thing.

Here are a couple of examples.

Mini Game

Online to offline: O2O Retail Gamification

Scratch Card

Online to offline: O2O Retail Gamification

With retail gamification, you’re not just increasing your sales, but you’re also enhancing customer engagement and raise retention. According to Business Harvard Review, “increasing customer retention rate by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.” These numbers are quite significant and results like this will add up profitably when combined with other methods. Here are the sales gamification strategies that work.

  • Robotics & automation

To talk about using automation and robotics for your omnichannel initiatives, we need to use examples.

In early 2018, Zara launched a new concept store in London with smart mirrors, self-checkout, and automated robotic arm system. The computerized arm allows customers to retrieve their click-and-collect orders quickly.

In 2017, Suning achieved US$15 million sales on Singles day, thanks to their unstaffed stores, automated logistic solutions, and delivery robots.

Consequently, it has raised manual work efficiency by five times while achieving goods-to-people—a way that boosts customer experience score compared to people-to-goods.


O2O retail will continue to develop faster than any of us can imagine. With the advancement of technologies and innovation, many shopper marketing tactics have become more creative and sophisticated, be it offline or online.

However, ultimately, it is not the tech, but buyers and their behaviors that are driving the change in the retail market. With this in mind, it’s always a safer bet to invest in understanding your prospects both in the online and offline space when you work on your multi-channel marketing approaches.

Here is the summary list of techniques we’ve covered.

O2O Strategies for Retailers

  • Enhance online loyalty with programs plus offline rewards
  • Build internet presence to tap into different online buyer segments
  • Invest into rich media, location-based, and personalized advertising
  • Provide flexible payment methods to boost shopping experience
  • Offer different ways of delivery or pickup of goods to build customer trusts
  • Integrate IoT/AR/VR capabilities for immersing customer experiences
  • Innovate your tactics with interaction and gamification to differentiate yourself
  • Implement robotics & automation to enhance the shopper experience

What other methods can you think of to bridge online promotions to your physical stores?

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