When consumers decide to shop, marketers tend to assume they act differently depending on where the purchase will occur — in-store or online. However, it seems counterintuitive for us to develop separate offline and online strategies as today’s consumers interact with retail in an omnichannel fashion. It has become the norm for shoppers to conduct research online and use their smartphones in store.
Brick-and-mortar retailers have struggled for years to adapt to an omnichannel model, but it turns out that ecommerce players have started to bridge the gap by adding a physical presence to build on what they do well. Their goal is not just to increase offline or online sales, but to enable customers to seamlessly convert on any channel.
1. Amazon’s Extensions – Adding Bookstores and Grocery Pickup
Years after bookstores shuttered their doors due to Amazon’s dominance, the online marketplace began adding their own physical stores. After launching in Seattle last year, Amazon is moving forward with plans to add stores in Chicago and Boston. Amazon bookstores act as an extension to their website, allowing users to scan books for reviews, order books not available in the store, see recommendations based on their reading history, and provide another outlet to promote Kindle and Echo devices.
Their next experiment plans to build on their experience of delivering groceries through Amazon Fresh by providing pickup destinations in Seattle. One of the major struggles with online grocery delivery has been preventing food from spoiling. Amazon’s hope is that through their pickup locations and potential partnerships with existing grocery stores, they will be able to ease their customer’s concerns about ordering fresh food online.
2. Digital Retailers Creating Offline Experiences
Warby Parker and Bonobos were digitally born businesses, but they have expanded their offline presence and want to provide customers more than just a showroom experience. Warby Parker sees most of its sales come through ecommerce but uses brick-and-mortar stores for things they cannot do online such as trying on frames and conducting eye exams. Their founder, Neil Blumenthal, stated the goal was “to make the process of buying glasses as easy and fun as possible.” Bonobos uses a similar model, focusing on customer experience over in-store sales. They allow their customers to try on their clothing without having to leave the store without bags. In doing so, they are able to worry less about inventory and fulfill orders through the Bonobos website.
While physical retailers are still trying to find a balance between their offline and digital efforts, the future opportunity awaits in how they work together to provide a seamless customer experience. Some of the key opportunities that already exist include helping consumers fill in information gaps, giving them the opportunity to touch and feel products, and changing the way they interact with your brand in a store. By learning from digitally born businesses extending their services through a brick-and-mortar shop, other retailers may find their own unique experience to offer customers.