Historically, brick-and-mortar stores have been the staple of retail. But in today’s market, the successes of any business lie just as much with an online experience for shoppers, with some of the largest commerce players such as eBay & Amazon leading the way for profit and popularity. With only 10 years having passed from the release of the first iPhone, the idea of ‘click and brick’ was born from the growth of eCommerce and the need to offer more convenient ways to browse and purchase items for consumers. The ONS Internet access – households and individuals: 2017 report states 77% of UK adults bought goods or services online in the last 12 months, unchanged from 2016 but up 24% on 2008. Nevertheless, the likes of Amazon still invest in physical locations, highlighted by their recent acquisition of Whole Foods for $14 billion, and Google’s first ever physical shop in London. As the brick-and-mortar brands continue to do more online business and vice-versa, it is necessary to look at both online and offline to understand what’s best for you.
Integrating your brand
Despite the convenience of online, consumers still want the ability to experience a brand’s physical location and continue to be drawn towards high street stores. Why? Because engagement remains an important tool to market your brand and interact with your consumers. After all, there is still much value in ‘trying before you buy’ in a space designed to offer customers a tailored experience. For example, the model of the online-only eBay is set in stone, whereas the likes of John Lewis still heavily invest in their brick-and-mortar locations.
Adopting an omnichannel experience
Both are fundamental to the success of your business, and your customers expect exactly that. A quick and frustration-free online shopping experience is paramount today. However, this era of digital revolution doesn’t spell the end of brick-and-mortar locations, with studies showing that physical stores continue to serve as a crucial touchpoint in purchases. What we see here is a need for retailers to adopt omnichannel shopping; a seamless online and offline experience as the new industry standard for consumers. This strengthens customer engagement and brand interaction, as well as creating a strong element of convenience for shoppers.
Getting the best of both worlds
Consumers represent all ends of the spectrum; from the millennials who use their phones for the majority of their consumer journey and prefer an in-store pickup to save time, to the affluent middle-aged woman who needs to try on that expensive Chanel dress before purchasing, or the family who look forward to the seasonal experience of visiting Harrods each year for presents.
To attract these consumer groups, and everything in between, it is essential for retailers to provide convenience via their online platform, but also a memorable brand experience in-store.
The management required to provide an integrated experience can be off-putting to retailers. However, brands are now beginning to look at different incentives to help drive online sales, whilst encouraging customers to visit their physical stores, using discounts, free products or add-ons.
Using both online and offline to configure shopping behaviours
While the first instinct for some retailers might be to focus on making a quick profit instead of creating a superior in-store customer service, it is paramount not to neglect the importance of building relationships with customers to ensure the long-term success of your company. Think of creative ways to make your stores more fun and incentivise shoppers to make the trip and experience your brand for themselves instead of the more impersonal online interaction. By making use of the tools available through both online and offline models, you can develop how shoppers search, and buy your products and ensure they get the best customer journey along the way.
The future of digitalisation
The era of digitalisation in eCommerce is slowly transforming the economy and an increasing amount of creative retailers are successfully using the new technologies to innovate their brand strategy. Retailers with physical locations may struggle with competitive pricing and inventory fulfilment challenges, but combining both will be sure to pay dividends in future sales.
Loyalty, Promotions & Perks
When it comes to the reinvention of retailing channels, the rise of mobile adds a new level of complexity to the process. Retailers should consider partnering for the added benefit of understanding consumer behaviour by gaining valuable data and customer preferences, which enable more targeted and memorable engagement with shoppers across all channels. It becomes even more important to combine promotional and customer service strategies during promotional seasons, such as the upcoming Christmas period.
So ask yourself, what do your customers lack in their commerce journey? Is it a personalised experience? Tailored promotions? Convenience? Trust? A brand more responsive to consumer demand? In recent years, each has become as important to profit as the other and retailers failing to deliver tend to lose ground to competitors, so try and implement these in your online and offline experiences to improve your offering. In adopting an omnichannel marketing strategy, you should also ensure consistent branding across every platform, including social media.
Dax Dasilva, Founder & CEO, Lightspeed