May 8, 2021 juzarraga

How Microsites are the Surprising Weapon for In-store Customer Engagement

Photo by: James Pond

By Scott Reese Point-of-purchase displays were once all the rage in marketing. The same can be said for print, radio, catalogue, and TV, but those too have all cooled in their ability to drive awareness and sales — at least when compared to digital. Social media, websites, influencer marketing, and the like are where you’ll find the sizzle today, resonating even more than the good old in-store channel with consumers.

But microsites — something the average consumer is probably already familiar with — could change all that.

Over the last few months, millions of consumers have interacted with microsites when they went out to eat or grabbed a carry-out meal. That’s because instead of getting a physical menu, some restaurants now encourage patrons to scan a QR code to bring up food and drink selections on their phones (rather than handling potentially contaminated menus). As simple as it might seem, that right there is a microsite.

How can microsites add to the in-store experience?

Of course, restaurateurs aren’t the only ones pivoting toward microsites throughout this pandemic.

Retailers and brands are also getting into the game, positioning QR codes next to displays or elsewhere within their stores. A quick scan via their smartphone, and consumers find themselves in a hyperfocused, incredibly immersive digital experience — one that’s laced with information on a product or service or provides a contactless payment option. Talk about the potential persuasion.

Consumers also bring these microsites home with them. No longer do you lose sight of potential consumers once they leave a store shelf. These single online pages or clusters of pages provide a unique opportunity to further the conversation and perhaps even sway it.

After all, the simple, clear, and memorable messages and stories conveyed by microsites can have a greater impact in final product selection than do big, complex stories on main websites. With this, you can treat each moment along the customer journey differently, moving consumers closer to a purchase. That’s simply not possible through a traditional brand site.

More importantly, these microsites allow for attribution. Sure, you can always get POS data from the retailer (which is generally late, by the way), but this doesn’t tell you anything beyond units sold. If you get people onto a microsite, you now have attribution power. How many clicks did we bring in this week? How many social shares? Customer activity and inactivity, hot zones, feedback, and repeat opens on a microsite will help tell the story of what customers want, need, and demand.

And when in-store fixtures lead customers to microsites, you can glean even more valuable insight on how customers conduct their research and buy: Think how much in-store research is done in front of a fixture, the information customers want to see after viewing it, the part of the customer journey it plays a role in, and whether that in-store fixture actually led to online sales.

Lastly, let’s not forget one of the most important metrics of all: conversion. Did consumers take the next step after interacting with the content on a microsite? If not, it’s a good indication to rework the digital experience you’re offering. That’s a relatively easy task when the job entails just a single webpage.

Enhancing the customer journey

Although microsites can prove beneficial in myriad ways, the real power in the experience can often be found in the purchase decision itself.

Take the in-store channel, for example. If you have no real means of helping the consumer with a sales associate on the floor, why offer a brochure or main webpage when a QR code could provide a more focused experience (and an eco-friendly one to boot)? It boasts an extremely low barrier for use, and it has the potential of offering a much more meaningful experience for the consumer. This doesn’t even mention that it comes with the ability to track that person’s retail activity going forward.

Even before the pandemic, retailers were moving toward both virtual and augmented reality to enhance the customer experience. VR is out right now (for obvious reasons). And besides that, it can be a bit clunky, expensive, and time-intensive; there are just too many steps for the consumer. Microsites and AR, on the other hand, can help fill the gap and provide a similar experience for the consumer without all the added risks.

If you’re looking for a secret weapon to improve in-store engagement, microsites are the way to go. They allow you to tailor the customer experience, reach a very specific audience, and provide the information necessary to encourage a purchase decision — either offline or online. It’s the power of persuasion right in the palm of a consumer’s hand. But more importantly, the in-depth insight you’ll gather from microsites allows you the agility to not only adapt to the shifting climate created by COVID-19, but also create a healthy foundation for the future.

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