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Striking the perfect balance between cyber and cement

Posted by Janine on May 9, 2016
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Today’s consumers are not that easy to please. All sorts of personal technology devices keep us connected and up to date on friends’ likes, recommendations or grievances and ensure that just about any product or service we desire is just a few swipes or taps away. It’s clear that technology is a key driver of today’s modern consumer lifestyles, and that online shopping keeps upping its appeal.

So why are so many global brands jumping on the bandwagon and opening new brick-and-mortar stores? Most notably, Amazon recently sent ripples through the retail industry by opening physical book stores. This, from the company that totally changed the way books were sold by offering its selection for purchase exclusively via their online platform. The Amazon Book Store concept started as a series of popups, that have turned into a few permanent locations in the U.S, with more expected to roll out. The book stores are put together in a way that makes physical retail feel a bit like shopping online with clever merchandising like displaying books with their front covers facing the shopper (rather than the traditional spine-out display); and includes reviews that customers have posted on their website, one also needs to scan the product code for up to date pricing – which is the same as the products’ that are sold online.

To the passive viewer, this shift seems counterintuitive to consumers’ increasing preference for online shopping. However, brands are discovering that while customers turn to the internet to browse and research, they want the best of both worlds.

In a 2015 report by the South African Council of Shopping Centres, it’s said that 63% of shoppers do their research and price comparison online, and then head to the physical store to buy product. Customers want the hands-on experience only physical stores can provide –physical merchandise to touch, feel and try-on, knowledgeable salespeople, and immediately available inventory. An impressive 98% of total retail spending still happens in stores.

It’s no longer enough to merely have a website that complements your brick-and-mortar presence; retailers must start to develop interactive experiences which merge physical and digital channels. E-commerce must be complementary to brick-and-mortar retail, as omni-channel customers tend to shop more frequently (up to 3 times more) and spend more on average than single-channel shoppers. Their behaviour is driving multi-channel growth and if retailers want to stay in touch with their customers, they must plan now and formulate workable and easy-to-use omni-channel strategies.

An omni-channel strategy should add more convenience, excitement, and multiple options to the customers. The way to do this most efficiently is to incorporate popups stores as a key part of the strategy. Temporary retail or brand experiences can significantly enhance omni-channel efforts by providing consumers with tactile experiences of product offerings, valuable face time with knowledgeable sales representatives and a unique experience. Thoughtfully designed popups, with well-curated assortments give consumers a sense that retailers have selected the best and most relevant range to compliment their lifestyles. Popup shops serve to widen target market reach with temporary physical experiences in a range of neighbourhoods and shopping centres, without needing to incur the costs of multiple permanent locations.

What is the message for retailers in search of that perfect balance between cyber and cement? Accommodate consumers’ progression by building an omnichannel approach that meets the customer wherever and however they shop and make the experience personalized and seamless.


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