The last 3 years have seen brands furiously trying to keep up with the digital demands of consumers. More than ever, businesses now understand that people don’t go looking for where they are, they need to be where their audiences are.
But there is one glaring thing that challenges that. Despite the investments into User Experience and the Online Journey, there is an evolutionary reversal of online shopping that exists, and it’s not going away any time soon.
So why is it that businesses like Amazon, and locally, Yuppiechef, are opening brick-and-mortar stores after many successful years as eCommerce pioneers?
The answer is two-fold. Credibility and experience.
Consumer trust has broken down over the last eighteen months, as what you see is not always what you get. This has led to the now common perception that if a store doesn’t exist in the flesh, it isn’t successful or credible, and that it might not be around tomorrow. With this challenge, we’re seeing many brands test the waters through pop up stores. And this perception is among millennials. Compounded with that, Generation X has always been told not to share banking details with anyone else. Google is certainly no stranger to that statement.
The latter, experience, again speaks to our primary instincts. People still crave physical visualisation, touching textures, and trying products before committing to them. You can’t connect with a shopper through a virtual cart. Although many of us might proclaim we don’t like sales consultants in store while browsing, the truth is that subconsciously, it still adds a level of personal care and expertise that you can’t duplicate online.
So, does this mean we should expect a decline in eCommerce? Well, no. Like with many solutions, an integrated approach is best. This doesn’t necessarily mean that online sales will slow down, as research still shows that millennials will examine a product in store and then purchase it online later.
Another opportunity that presents itself through this approach is leveraging data responsibly. By understanding consumer behavior through their online and offline movements, brands can hyper-personalize experiences, and even incentivize audiences by offering in-store only and online exclusive deals. Encouraging online cart additions for items that consumers aren’t ready to commit to, also creates a retargeting method that leverages offline actions – previously impossible. The marriage between online and offline offer endless possibilities. Augmented reality and hyper targeted content mean brands can have a multi-touch point approach, increasing visibility, and ultimately, sales.
Forbes summarizes this combination well, “The digital space is there for convenience. The physical space is there for experience.”
In a world where consumers are fast dictating how and where brands will be and behave, embracing the notion that this will probably change all over again in the next eighteen months, is probably safest.