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O2O – Organisation of the Consumer Journey Between Realities

09 January 2018 | Weronika Masternak | development big data martech

Customer's purchase in a brick and mortar store can be a single transaction or... a start of a long, promising journey. As part of the O2O strategy (online-to-offline), customers have a chance to emotionally bond with the brand at physical locations, as well as take advantage of the freedom on the website provided by the brand. This synergy of these two worlds – online and offline – and unrestrained movement between them allows you to build a lasting relationship with the recipient, and above all – to be with him at every step.

From the article you will learn:

  • what the O2O strategy is;
  • how to integrate the customer's life cycle;
  • how to transfer the client between offline and online worlds;
  • about the future of the O2O strategy.

What is an Online-to-Offline Strategy?

In surveys conducted by McKinsey & Company, it was shown that it has been shown that we spend an average of 11 hours on the internet each day, which is five hours longer than in 2016. Via electronic equipment connected to the Internet, you can be up to date on news, seek information, satisfy the need for entertainment, build relationships with other users, and conduct business transactions. People are more and more eager to use the Internet and that’s where they are looking for the best solutions for themselves. According to the ”Polska.Jest.Mobi 2018” report, 42% of the surveyed people make purchases online. This number is still growing and the use of mobile devices in making transactions is increasing. Retailers tried to fight it until they realised the benefits. Considering how common the activities in the online world have become, companies have begun to appear in this space with their offers, product information and marketing messages.

Brand accessibility in different channels is very important for a prosumer who appreciates the opportunity to make purchases anywhere and anytime. Brands should not choose between implementing an online or offline marketing strategy, but rather try to integrate them in a thoughtful way. Such a consolidated approach to business is called the online-to-offline (O2O strategy). It is based on ensuring equal experiences within the maintained channels, mutual transfer of potential, and care for their holistic complementation.

What is a customer journey?

The resulting ”hybrid” O2O solution not only guarantees the company’s ubiquity, but more importantly – it allows for being close to the customer at any moment of her/his ”shopping journey”. In the online-to-offline strategy, accompanying during the ”shopping journey” is understood as noticing by the brand the recipient’s interest, understanding their needs, presenting a personalised commercial offer, offering help in choosing the right product/service, but also – providing support in the event of consumer problems, reminding about company’s presence in the space, constantly supervising the relationships and encouraging to share the experience of contact with the brand.

At this point, you should ask yourself a question – to what extent do you know the customer, and if your brand is sufficiently accessible to them. It is extremely important on the current market to correctly identify your consumer (gain knowledge about their behaviour, preferences, attitude toward the brand, etc.), establish contact with them and then – strengthen the created relationship. The brand undertakes a number of activities aimed at identifying an active customer in an online or offline environment, and encouraging them to get to know the company in the channels belonging to the opposite (real/virtual) sphere. Transferring the customer from the Internet to physical contact points and vice versa is carried out mainly to show them all possible communication channels of the brand, and to teach how to freely move around them.

The ”next step”, performed every time the company managed to achieve the set goal, is of great importance in the O2O strategy. Someone buys groceries in your brick and mortar store? Let them collect virtual points and exchange them for rewards. There’s a guest in your resort? Offer them a discount for the next stay, hidden in a QR code. A user visits your website? Offer them an interesting newsletter in exchange for leaving basic contact details. A consumer is satisfied with the purchase made in your brick and mortar store? Suggest them the option of rating it on a supported social networking site. By combining two worlds – the virtual and real one – when carrying out the services, there is a greater chance that the interest of the recipient will be maintained and that they will remember about the brand when a proper need arise. Keeping the customer constant company as part of their ”journey”, preventing any possible inconveniences, stimulating relationships and taking care of information consistency in the channels used is evidence of the company’s business maturity and entering a higher level in building loyalty.

How to transfer the customer from the online to offline world and vice versa?

Providing the consumer with the same level of satisfaction in a given channel and smooth transition between them has a significant impact on their brand experience. They can comfortably drift between the worlds and leave the Internet for the reality, and then – return to the network without any problem. The O2O strategy might seem as something complicated and requiring preparation, but – as you will see later – it is something obvious, that has been used on the market for a long time. There are many ways to transfer a person between worlds, it can be done by:

  • developing an application generating digital coupons sent by push notifications, to be used at brick and mortar stores;
  • equipping a brick and mortar store with displays with software for viewing a digitised version of the product range; reading opinions left by customers, or adding products to a wish list;
  • using a geolocalisation mechanism by an application that sends notifications with the current offer or available discount codes to a person being near a brick and mortar store;
  • designing the VR application or software which is based on gamification, in order to stimulate consumers inside a commercial facility (e.g. an invitation to search digitally generated items in the store via portable equipment);
  • enabling the customer to pick up the order placed via online store at a brick and mortar shop, as well as to return the product bought online to the store;
  • enabling the customer to pick up the order placed via online store at a brick and mortar shop, as well as to return the product bought online to the store;
  • creating a software in the form of a ”Virtual Advisor” that will guide the consumer around the facility, inform about new products and take into account their needs, using the available data on them;
  • using an application based on Big Data solutions and on geolocalisation, in order to send the customer a digital advertisement of a product accordant with their preferences and available near them;
  • an option of shopping at a brick and mortar shop using a mobile application in the form of a scanner or using special barcode readers that create a list of the products selected on the premises of a commercial facility;
  • creating a software that helps in product configuration on the premises of a commercial facility (e.g. digital signage for placing and paying for orders);
  • obtaining additional information about the product by reading the QR code on the packaging/label using a mobile application;
  • designing a software that allows for implementing a loyalty programme without the need of using a physical card by the customer.

As you can see, there are many ways to ”pull” the recipient between realities while implementing the O2O strategy. However, you should remember to ensure the customer’s sense of security of the entrusted data, and to obtain a definite user consent to data processing to the activities directed at them. Time and trust are very important factors for a modern recipient. Therefore, it is advisable to respect these values, and hence – to provide personalised messages at a proper frequency, and to make sure that your channels are always active and not misleading. By implementing the O2O strategy, the brand has a unique opportunity to gather feedback from all channels (using Big Data), subject them to evaluation (predictive analysis and Data Science), and then, on this basis, improve the principles of functioning in the space. It does not like the consumer will resign from being in one of the realities – online or offline – in the future, which is why it is crucial to take actions aimed at closing the loop between them.

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