Yin-Yang of online and offline Retaling

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Not too long ago, we didn’t have any identity on the Internet and there used to be only one world for us. Online space was restricted to governments and academic institutions- it was a separate life-less world with little connection to our daily lives. Gradually, with the mass adoption of email culture and the advent of socialisation, collaboration and personalisation in the online space, it seems to be brimming with life. Now each one of us are active online and our personal life, work life, education, etc. seem to be imbued with the online world.

Though we keep shuttling between these two worlds, Online and Offline worlds are often seen as separate. Is this just a perception or we really are living in two different worlds? We are. And this perception arises due to lack of physical or in-person interaction with the other side. The majority of online solutions being built are lacking physical or in-person interactions with the other side – the Disembodiment phenomena.

In my view, this equation of Online-Offline is equivalent to the Yin-Yang symbol of life. Online world which is full of energy, enthusiasm and a lot of activity represents Yang and our offline world is relatively passive with calming energies and represents Yin. People have started realizing the fact that their Yin (Offline world) is suppressed and their life demands balance.

In today’s era, solutions which bridge the gap between online and offline worlds will be the winning solutions. Re-embodiment, a technique used to reduce the sense of disembodiment online, has been embraced successfully by Lenskart.com and Fits.me. Lenskart’s ‘try on your face’ feature fulfills the customer’s urge to physically see how the glasses or frames look on their face. Similarly, the ‘fit’ of the clothes is a major challenge as 70% of the returned online purchases are due to a poor fit. Fits.me provides ‘virtual fitting’ feature enabling user to visualize the look and feel of own self, reducing the gap and urge to really go to the store physically. ‘Intellifit’ a kind-of try-room placed in the Levi’s stores scans customers to recommend best-fit.

Collaboration and co-creation are also making waves in e-Commerce solutions. For one of our clients retail e-Store, we allowed customers to design their shoe and also co-create by sharing the in process shoe-design screen with their social group in real time to take their opinion. This idea has been quite appreciated by the end-customers, as it enables the person to have his/her friends along while shopping. With this model, customers need not be alone while shopping online – they can choose to take real time opinions while shopping.

Localized shopping, entertainment and augmented shopping (e.g. SnapShop) are trying to provide the user with the real-world view in real-time. The success of Groupon and Yelp is a good example of this perspective. Bridging efforts are also happening from the other side of the spectrum as well. Physical stores are being equipped with more and more kiosks, QR code and Bar-code scanners enable users to leverage online information for similar products, product and price comparison- the bar-code and QR code scanning applications in the Smart-phones further add to the online experience while in the Physical store.

We can thus see that these two opposites (online and offline) are interdependent and inter-transformation of the both these worlds will continue to create new balances and ensure harmony. The solutions which will sew the online and offline worlds together can expect greater success in the e-Commerce and online space.

About the author: Jaspreet Singh, Technology Architect, Digital Customer Experience – Digital & Integration Services, Infosys

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