In the battle between offline and online retail, who is winning?
As the companies are divided between offline (brick-and-mortar stores) and online (e-tailers), we are placing bets on both the teams, because both are part of a new phenomenon – ‘Clicks Meet Bricks’!
It’s more than just jargon used for the integration of online (clicks) and offline (bricks) presence. It’s the new wave that is the harbinger of Omnichannel retailing. Omnichannel retailing can be defined as ‘being available at any time anywhere, making it convenient for the customer’ by ‘combining mobile, bricks and-mortars and e-tailing’.
One example of ‘Clicks meet Bricks’ is Amazon’s ambitious bookstores.
Stepping into the Amazon store opened in San Diego, it looks like the nicer version of Crossword bookstores popular in India. Unlike the old shops that smell of book dust, and look funky and bohemian, Amazon stores are corporate and clean. They have 5000-6000 book titles and interestingly, they are not biased to promote their own published titles.
The stores provide free Wifi with the Internet speed of around 114 Mbps. One can browse books at the store and buy at home.
The shelves are interesting as well. They include each book’s ratings and customer reviews. Just like the website! Also, the books are arranged ‘cover out’ than ‘spine -out’ to make browsing friendly.
What really sets Amazon bookstore apart from other bookstores is the display of all Amazon’s devices such as Echo and Fire TV. They are spread out on the tables and stands for customers to play with them, like iPADs in an Apple store. Customers who are shy at buying devices online can fiddle with them in-store before the purchase.
One can thank Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon for all the above and many more of such stores that are coming in future!
Fortune magazine writes that Amazon uses data from its e-commerce website to decide which book to stock or not. According to Bezos, Amazon’s brick-and-mortar stores are about “satisfying a completely different need. It’s about browsing and discovery.”
Adopting Omnichannel Strategies
“The definition of sales in retail is getting confusing as the transactions are happening at multiple channels. How do we measure the sale where the customer buys online but collects in-store? The traditional POS (Point of Sale) is neither enough to track ‘the flow’ of sale to customer nor can withstand the trend of ‘click (online) and collect (in-store)’. Now the customers have become the new Point of Sale. Where to shop, how to pay or where to collect are now being determined by them.
“The ‘store’ has evolved to become a shopping point, a point of customer experience, and a distribution point,” says PhD, Retailwire, Chris Petersen.
Not only Amazon has entered the game of Omnichannel retailing but many big brands have also adopted BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) strategy. The statistics from Cybra site state that 50 per cent of the customers expect to buy online and pick-up in store. Brands in India have started adopting BOPIS and other Omnichannel strategies.
Wave of Omnichannel retailing in India
Big retailers in India are already trying to bridge the gap between offline and online to shorten a customer’s journey to the final purchase.
Pepperfry gives unique furniture shopping experience: builds trust with customers
Studio Pepperfry has opened with a lot of promises. A store, ‘where you can touch, see and even, smell the furniture’ has one of the locations as Bangalore.
As the customer enters the store, he is assisted by the team of brilliant designers. The 11,000 pieces of the catalogue available on the website is shortlisted to the customers by the designer/sales assistants.
The customer enjoys free and customizable services. Instead of the price tags, there are SKU codes and the prices could be looked up online.
Although Studio Pepperfry misses giving customers the ability to play around with the screens/iPADS themselves but one can purchase the product while browsing on the website in-store.
The research of Esteban Kolsky, creator of ThinkJar states that 55 per cent of consumers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience.
Aiming to please customers with unique customer service with Studio Pepperfry, Ashish Shah Founder & COO Pepperfry says, “Customers are always posed with questions around quality and assurance while buying a high-value item like furniture. At Studio Pepperfry they will be able to get a better understanding of the quality of products and services that we offer. It will also help us build their confidence and trust in the brand.”
Where Pepperfry adopted Omnichannel strategy to build trust with customers, Van Heusen, an old and renowned name in fashion retailing is going Omnichannel way to promote business.
Van Heusen enhances the in-store experience: good for business!
For Van Heusen, digital has become omnipresent. The flagship store launched at Bangalore provides futuristic personalised experience to the customer.
Instead of standing in the changing room queue, the customer can pick up the product to scan the barcode. The scan shows the digital version of the cloth on the model with all its other information.
The customer can also take advantage of the ‘Fit Suite’ where exact body measurements is provided to the customer via scanning and a personalised card is given.
Another digitally enhanced feature of the store is ‘The Trial Room’. Once the customer taps the personalised card on the scanner, he gets a virtual experience of trying different clothes by clicking on iPAD. On top of it, the store also has professional help to provide personalised style advice to the customers.
Now Van Heusen’s customers have the flexibility to ‘buy online and return offline’. If a customer does not find the right fit in one store, he can order from another store.
COO of Van Heusen, Vinay Bhopatkar, gives two reasons for providing the customer with fabulous in-store experience and adapting to Omnichannel. “One is that ‘the digital integration experience has become so integral to consumers today. Secondly, consumers are seeking out for guidance from brands on how to look well and dress up well.”
The Van Heusen Style stores are coming to five more locations in Delhi and Mumbai though they cost twice the regular store. Lisnr, an ultrasonic audio technology company supports that using technology to enhance the in-store experience isn’t just a “nice to have” for brands and retailers – it’s good for business too.
Innovating retail shopping experience
A recent Zendesk study reported that 87 percent of consumers think that brands need to work harder to create a seamless experience.
Brands like Amazon, Pepperfry and Van Heusen and many more are adopting Omnichannel strategies to create a unified experience across multiple touchpoints like mobile, website, brick and mortar stores etc. To build trust with customers and witness a business boom, brands are walking the path of Omnichannel.
At the same time, stores are becoming the foundation of Omnichannel retailing as e-tailers are launching physical stores and brands are enhancing the in-store experience to woo customers.
CEO of Tesco, Steve McNamara, is right on the point at: “Retail is a business of innovation since customer expectations are at an all-time high.”
Then, why not give your customer what he wants?
In the battle between offline and online retail, who is winning?