As a retailer, a browsing customer may have been your worst nightmare.

These customers have the potential to take up customer service time and other in-store resources without making a purchase. Omnichannel shopping and “research online, purchase offline” behavior give you the opportunity to turn what you previously thought of as wasted time into a long-term sales opportunity.

Omnichannel and ROPO Impact

In an omnichannel environment, the customer’s experience in-store dictates sales, even if there is no purchase the same day through your in-store channel. A quality customer experience during the browsing segment of the buyer’s journey can lead to online sales, referrals through the customer’s social network, or a subsequent store trip.

The opposite also occurs through ROPO behavior. Nielsen found the highest online browsing, in-person buying activity for consumable items. For example, 33 percent of cosmetics buyers browse online, but only 31 percent complete their purchase online. The rest use the information gathered to fuel in-store purchases.

How to Handle Browsing Customers

You need to deliver an excellent customer experience to browsing customers to build loyalty and increase the possibility of a sale through another channel, or at a later date. These customers should be helped, attended to, and their needs satisfied. The approach for a browsing customer is different from buying customers. Browsers do research on a product and have a high interest and knowledge of that product class. Instead of going with a hard sales technique, retail floor staff should answer questions about the product for the browser.

Opinion Leadership

Browsers often pay attention to opinion leadership within the various steps of online research. An influencer is a person on social media who is well known for his opinion within a particular category. The opinions from an influencer carry a lot of weight with browsers, who come across these opinion leaders during the research process. The biggest-name influencers have millions of followers and carry the recommendation weight of trusted word-of-mouth opinions. Understanding where your browser researches online is another important aspect of addressing their needs in-store.

Finding Value in Browsers

Not every browser converts to a buyer, even in an omnichannel experience, so you don’t necessarily want to encourage browsing behavior. You need to balance resources spent on browsers to encourage them to purchase, without losing sales from other customers or failing to gain benefits from your efforts. You can’t afford to ignore browsers, as a poor customer experience affects the browser’s social recommendations and likelihood of purchasing in the future.

Real-time data collection helps you find value in your browsers. You gain information on the general browsing population, as well as browsing roles in a specific store. The more information you have on browsers, the better you can adapt your retail execution to move them into the buyer category.

Omnichannel shopping changes the retail execution landscape. Browsing customers are no longer a time and money sink, since a good customer experience can encourage them to purchase from your in-store or online channels in the future. You need to adapt to the browser by providing the information to make a purchase decision, while preventing too many resources from going to a customer who’s not quite ready to buy.

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