A Storefront Lurks Under Every Digital Touchpoint

Technology is advancing to the degree where almost any digital consumer touchpoint has the potential to become a very real storefront. Video games, blog and social media postings, apps, and virtually any other digital environment that directly engages consumers either currently is or soon will be able to serve as a fully functioning storefront where transactions can be executed.

Chain Store Age recently covered two examples of the “storefrontization” of an ever-expanding array of digital touchpoints. Twitter is reportedly pursuing a strategy where retailers will be able to directly sell to consumers within tweets, and the new Amazon Mobile Associates API enables developers to sell physical and digital items from Amazon.com within their Android apps and games.

Surrounded by storefronts
These examples represent the tip of what will surely be a disruptive iceberg of digital storefronts that will crash into the consumer landscape in the near future. Full-scale shopping via text message, camera phone, barcodes and QR codes, and a host of other digital touchpoints inevitably awaits.

Retailers also need to consider the potential technologies wearable computing devices such as Google Glass, as well as augmented and virtual reality, hold for offering consumers life-like shopping experiences within personalized and digitized “stores.” Geofencing technology could potentially allow customers to automatically purchase an item and schedule its delivery simply by walking into a designated area. And the list goes on.

In the shorter term, retailers need to prepare for selling through non-traditional storefronts such as tweets and video games. Here are a few suggestions to help ensure success.

Break through the noise
Consumers have a remarkable capacity for screening out background noise like advertisements and marketing pitches. While digital storefronts operating in places like tweets will initially attract attention due to their novelty, as they multiply the novelty will fade and consumers will find the discovery of a digital storefront as exciting as the discovery of a promotional email that slipped through the spam filter.

To avoid blending in with the rest of the background noise, retailers must use creativity and selectiveness. This includes using relevant hashtags on storefront tweets, including purchase capability in location-based promotional texts and even creating real-time digital storefronts in response to newsworthy events such as this year’s power outage at the Super Bowl.

Tailor your assortment
Obviously downloadable products, like software and music, are ideally suited for sale through digital storefronts. But retailers should also carefully consider what types of physical products are best suited for this purchase experience. Customers will often encounter digital storefronts unexpectedly, so products that lend themselves to impulse buys, such as fast food and fashion accessories, are likely a good fit.

In addition, utilitarian products like basic household appliances and personal grooming items, where hands-on examination is not a big part of the purchase process, fit well in a digital storefront assortment.

Target your storefronts
Not every customer is going to be receptive to a storefront lurking inside a tweet, blog post, QR code or other digital touchpoint. Retailers should try to target their storefronts through means such as including them on an opt-in basis within location-based text promotions or targeted tweets, rather than including them in mass communications. Almost every digital touchpoint can (or soon will be able to) become a storefront, but that doesn’t mean every digital consumer will welcome every instance they encounter.

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