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Shoppers Delight: 6 Ways Today’s Online Culture Impacts Retail Sales

Stacy DeBroff
Stacy DeBroff

Regardless of the product segment they seek, consumers today face a dizzying array of choices when they dash into a store to make a quick purchase or embark on a planned shopping excursion.

Shelves remained filled with everything from brand stalwarts to line extensions of every variety to cost-saving store brands – with competition for shelf space proving elusive and hard fought.

Yet despite the amount of choices consumers encounter at retail, they have become even more discerning when it comes to the purchases they make for their families.

With just one click, savvy consumers can tap into a wide variety of firsthand online reviews that shed profound insights on product attributes – even while standing in store aisles.

Related Article: Buying In the Cloud: How Cloud Technology is Revolutionizing the Retail Industry

As a result, today’s retail landscape proves far more competitive than in previous generations. At my digital and social consultancy Influence Central, we work with the nation’s top consumer brands and retailers and have created successful influencer marketing campaigns designed to create retail lift. What follows are six key reasons today’s online culture impacts consumers at retail:

1. Consumers Increasingly Say “No” to Brand Loyalty

Most of us grew up with the same brands in our family’s cupboards and pantries, using them year after year. But we’ve found that today’s generation of consumers doesn’t share the same sense of brand loyalty when they step into a retail establishment. Instead of gravitating toward the brands, Mom kept in the house or even ones they’ve used over the past several years, consumers now come into stores with a new brand in mind based on first-person online recommendations or scan the shelves for the best price.

2. E-Commerce Reviews Lead the Way in Generating Retail Lift

Back in the day, when we went in search of a new product, we most likely talked with friends or family members to get their take. All that’s changed with today’s social media-powered online recommendation culture. Now, consumers check out e-commerce reviews – on blogs, websites, or social platforms – to get personal insights, perspective, and recommendations from what current users think about brands they may want to buy. As a result, consumers enter retail stores armed with a wealth of information about how brands’ perform, wear over time, and stack up against competitors.

3. Smartphones Take Online Reviews to Point of Purchase 

We know that e-commerce reviews can help consumers seal the deal when they stand ready to make a purchase. But with our ever-present Smartphones, consumers can still tap into online reviews – even while combing the aisles of a retail store. Consumers continue to check online reviews of a product from their Smartphones while shopping offline – which can become the tipping point if they’re on the fence about a purchase or struggling to decide between two similar products. Moreover, consumers use mobile devices to compare pricing while in store or search for better deals – all of which impacts whether or not they’ll make a purchase in-store.

4. Unique Opportunities Drive Brick-and-Mortar Sales

Today, with so many choices facing consumers – from online deals to competing retailers – they often need a compelling reason to enter one retail establishment over another. We’ve found in working with retailers that the creation of a unique online coupon code can be one way to drive brick-and-mortar sales – particularly if brand advocates prove the sole distribution source. These influencers distribute the unique code to their online communities, as well as post photos and personal insights on their blogs and social platforms. Not only do these influencers drive traffic to specific retailers, they also spark online engagement and conversation around the retailer.

5. Digital Influencers Forge Connections Between New Products & Key Retailers

While the launch of a new product often creates buzz, it can be a challenge to translate initial excitement into retail sales – and online influencers can prove key. We recently worked with our client WaterWipes, the Irish manufacturer of the world’s first chemical-free baby wipes, on an integrated program when the product became widely available in the U.S. Through a combination of strategic engagements via influencer programs, word of mouth, digital activations, and media, WaterWipes was able to increase market share in the U.S., and drive retail sales with key retail partners, such as Babies “R” Us, Target, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Stop & Shop, Giant, Meijer, Wegmans, and other local chains.

Related Article: Why Some Customers Prefer Online Business to Traditional Retail Stores

6. Advocacy Transforms Consumers’ Retail Behavior

Truly igniting online influencers around a product or retailer hinges on identifying brand advocates. While we often think about online advocacy in terms of “liking” a page and “following” a brand, it goes much deeper than that. Real brand advocates express passionate enthusiasm about a brand or retailer, they seek out genuine opportunities for reciprocal online engagement, and they embody a retailer or brand’s target audience. Moreover, they express their advocacy authentically in their own voice, through storytelling that conveys – through words and visual images – their experiences and insights, with the overall goal of influencing consumer behavior and profoundly impacting retailers’ bottom lines. 

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Stacy DeBroff
Stacy DeBroff Member
Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Influence Central, is a social media strategist, attorney, and best-selling author. A frequent national and international speaker, she consults with brands on consumer and social media trends. You can reach her at Want more insights and trends? Subscribe to the Influence Central Trend Report at