Storbie is passionate about people finding and buying local products and services. In our Shop Local article series, we talk to retailers, town centre managers and passionate people about what makes their local area unique and how they’re spreading the word within and beyond their community.
Taking Advantage of Purchasing Behaviour Trends To Encourage Shopping Locally
Consumers want to purchase locally-made goods and support local businesses, and they are doing more and more product research online and on-the-go before stepping in store to purchase. These are two trends that business associations can take advantage of in their marketing, says Sandy Turner, General Manager of the Hamilton Central Business Association (HCBA). Turner says digital channels are a vital way to get these products in front of consumers and influence buyer behaviour. She explains how HCBA’s marketing efforts combine digital and traditional methods and why the new Hamilton Central online marketplace website is a key part of the Hamilton digital strategy.
A common perception is that online is just a sales channel that detracts from brick-and-mortar sales, however research shows that digital interactions in fact have a huge influence on in store sales (called web-influenced sales) and buying behaviour.
The habits of digitally-connected consumers
A recent study by Roy Morgan Research published on ecommerce.org.nz stated that just under half (49.3%) of New Zealanders aged 14+ (1.8 million of us) bought at least one product over the internet in the previous four weeks. The article also stated “Also, the internet isn’t just a sales channel; it’s often the way we do a bit of pre-purchase planning via computer, mobile or tablet instead of visiting stores. Almost half of Kiwis agree they research products or services online before buying in-store, and almost 1 in 3 did product research online within the last four weeks.”
Data published by Google shows that the internet was used in 53% of recent purchase journeys in New Zealand leading to either an online or offline purchase. The most common activities by Kiwis are gathering information on pricing, promotions, and product availability.
Research from Deloitte shows that 72% of Australian shoppers already know what they want to buy before they go into a shop. Consumers are making buying decisions at other points in the shopping journey, where they find ideas and inspiration, research product information, validate performance through reviews, and even make purchases online to pick up in store.
The takeaway from all of this? What’s really important to recognise isn’t so much the dominance of digital, it’s how online and offline channels work together.
HCBA is poised to help Hamilton CBD businesses take full advantage of the habits of digitally-connected consumers. “Online channels have become mainstream for not only the next generation of shoppers, but those aged 40+ too, so supporting Hamilton Central businesses in their online marketing efforts is crucial”.
“We want to encourage members to not only have a brochure website, but also an online store with their product catalogue so consumers can research and browse online, anywhere and at any time, and then head in store to purchase”.
“Online shopping is here to stay. So are the big overseas brands. We won’t see that slow down until the GST laws come in to effect. But buying online from a local business means consumers can trust there is a brick-and-mortar store they can go to when they want or need”.
A digital strategy that aligns with Shop Local messages and drives in-store visits
‘Something unique on every street’ is the message that HCBA wants to get across in their efforts to inform people what Hamilton has to offer.
Turner says they have worked hard to build up a following on social media — they have 17,000 Facebook followers that they can engage with. They promote events and offers through radio campaigns and they have a large database of information to work with. Turner is particularly confident that they are reaching the 19,000 CBD workers whether it’s through the HCBA website, social media, special deals, monthly newsletters or face-to-face surveys. They are constantly measuring and reporting on how these channels are performing and the results of their campaigns.
HCBA have a staff member who devotes at least half of her time to the digital strategy and online campaigns. “We would love to have someone working on this full time”.
“The business directory pages on our website were getting the most visits each month and the stats showed such a huge number of people were browsing on a mobile device, but our website was not mobile-friendly. It was vital to change our website to cater to these consumers so we have just switched to our new mobile-friendly website that also has ecommerce capability available for all members”.
Turner says running competitions are very successful, members donate the prizes and people respond really well. The success of the Hamilton Central online marketplace requires education and the involvement of member’s time and resources to get content and products online. “We’re providing as much support as we can because we know it’s so important to support in store sales with online”.
Far from just a channel that inhibits brick-and-mortar sales, being online is about understanding the customer buying process and enabling interactions that in fact encourage and drive in store visits.
See the Hamilton Central marketplace website at www.hamiltoncentral.co.nz
Learn more about Storbie business directory and online marketplace websites for business associations at www.storbie.com/bids