Geomarketing 101: Online-To-Offline

Consumers don’t live their lives in silos. Here’s how brands are making an effort to stay consistent across all devices — and into the physical world.

From geo-targeting to beacons, location-based technology is opening up a world of possibilities for marketers — but it’s also complicated, as new capabilities and use cases seem to emerge every day.

With the goal of breaking down some of the most important “geo” concepts to provide a better understanding of the basics — and a jumping off point for exploring how far the power of location may take us — we introduce the next installment of our GeoMarketing 101 series: understanding online-to-offline marketing.

What Is ‘Online-To-Offline’?

Online-to-offline marketing is exactly what it sounds like: It refers to employing an online marketing strategy aimed at getting consumers to go to specific offline locations.

What does that look like? Online-to-offline marketing can take many forms, but a simple example is a geo-targeted mobile ad with a click-to-map function: When an interested consumer sees the ad on their smartphone, they can easily click to discover their closest physical store and find directions to it.

This type of campaign capitalizes on the fact that over 90 percent of people shop with their smartphones in hand, while still respecting the idea that digital consumers don’t live their lives in silos. They discover products on desktop or mobile, and then they either buy them on a device or seek them out in a store, depending on what is most convenient for them at a given time.

Essentially, brands have prioritized online-to-offline marketing strategies as the importance of thinking “omnichannel” has grown. As shoppers increasingly rely on a diverse assortment of devices and visit a variety of store locations, it makes sense that brands have to manage their digital presence so as to remain consistent across all of these touch points. This has resulted in a variety of brand initiatives that attempt to blend the online and offline worlds in a seamless manner. Another example of this: Kohl’s and other retailers embrace of “buy online, pick up in store” programs.

Moving Offline

A related concept under the umbrella of online-to-offline is the idea of “e-tail” stores moving from online-only to opening physical brick-and-mortar locations.

A move sometimes called “clicks to bricks,” it describes the trend — pioneered with great success by Warby Parker and its ilk — of successful online retailers discovering that they can better serve their consumer base by providing physical store locations as well.

Once again, this plays to the idea of creating a unified presence across all digital and physical touch points, as well as to the notion that in-store commerce isn’t dead; it just has to offer something that consumers can’t get on Amazon.

For example, online jeweler Blue Nile transformed its physical stores into, essentially, connected showrooms. Shoppers can experience the merchandise in person — as well as get help from consultants — but all transactions happen online via in-store tablets, and online prices are in effect.

With the online and offline marketing success experienced by Blue Nile, Warby Parker, Tuckernuck, and others, more businesses are likely to follow the online-to-offline path, both in terms of opening stores and in thinking about how they coordinate their marketing efforts.

As Tuckernuck co-founcer Jocelyn Gailliot said last fall, “in order to be a successful retailer these days, you need to have a strong omni-presence. This includes selling online, selling offline, and having a brand that is popular on social media.”

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.