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The Art of Retail: Balancing Retail Brand Experience In-Store and Online

This is an archived post from OrderDynamics, now Tecsys retail division.
The Art of Retail: Balancing Retail Brand Experience In-Store and Online In today’s retail market, most large brick-and-mortar retailers have a strong online presence. Not surprisingly, big online players such as Amazon or Wayfair is working on developing their physical presence as well. Why is it that offline is going online and vice versa? And how can these two combine to form the perfect retail brand experience?

Traditional Retail Models

This disruption of traditional retail models means there are transformative changes across the retail industry. After all, retailers are striving to rapidly adapt to evolving consumer demands. Changes we see today have no doubt been happening much faster and with a greater magnitude than ever. Which presents a number of challenges for retailers to overcome. As e-commerce adoption increases, today’s customer journey is spread across multiple channels such as website, mobile app, physical store and social media. Therefore, merchants need to identify each customer as the same individual no matter what channel or device they use. Moreover, retailers now must shift focus towards balancing performance and their retail brand experience amid online and offline channels to create a positive shopping journey to their customers. This means in order to stay the course retailers should plan their strategies to be executed across all channels regardless of where the ultimate sale comes from.

The Full Retail Brand Experience

Hence, key to that is brand experience. As the Deloitte study: Global Powers of Retailing 2018 indicates, “90 percent of worldwide retail sales are still done in physical stores. But to compete with the convenience and endless aisle assortment offered online, meaningful customer experiences and brand engagement is crucial. Apple Stores and Nike Retail are held as the gold standard in this regard.”  With customer intelligence, merchants can connect demographic data and consumption trends, and provide consumers with options that best suit their needs and preferences. This way, they can maximize the potential of every channel, delivering a seamless and personalized customer experience (Digital 360). Several studies point out that customers still prefer in-store shopping. Although, due to lack of time, delivery costs, and other factors, consumers seek an easy shopping experience using multiple channels. Therefore, having an omnichannel strategy in place is key to a retailer’s success. This includes adding convenient options such as click & collect, ship to/from store, returns in store, delivery options such as pick up lockers, deliver to home, and in-store.

Retail Brand Experience In-store Vs. Online?

Recent breakthroughs and advancements in technologies have given retailers the opportunity to reinvent their business models. They can do this by enabling automation such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality as part of brand experiences within online and offline channels.

Beacon Me Up

A good example of online and offline convergence is beacon technology and marketing proximity. Imagine a customer is in store and the merchant can send a pop-up notification to the user’s phone (via Bluetooth) with discount offerings. If there were using Google to comparison shop - you have now given them a compelling reason to stick with you instead (Internet Retailing).

AR and VR

Moreover, Ikea online and Wayfair mobile app recently integrated AR/VR concepts to their digital channels. Timberland also utilizes in-store AR experience to target millennials and bring their brand experience to a whole new level. Their window displays enable customers to virtually try on clothes as they are passing by their stores (Chain Store Age).

Smart Shopping

Additionally, Coty’s smart mirrors allow customers to virtually try on items like lipsticks in-store. And then purchase them online while they are in store. (Retail TouchPoints). Sephora’s digital mirror in its flagship in Madrid offers customers personalized recommendations through AI. When the shopper looks at the mirror, it detects their data like gender, age, look and clothing. It then suggests makeup, skincare and fragrance based on the data collected. As a customer accept the recommendation, a QR code is offered, allowing them to purchase the products online or easily locate the items in store (Retail TouchPoints)

It's All About the Experience

Besides technology, physical stores have been delivering innovative brand connector experience to get customers to stick around. One example is the Nike flagship store in London where one can not only fit football shoes but then also go try them out by using their small indoor football pitch. Recently, Ikea took a unique, non-stocking showroom approach. This planning studio is a place for customers to get ideas, book planning sessions, and make online purchases.

Are You Ready?

 According to the PWC study, retailers should build an ecosystem, so they can bring customers to the stores. As retail analysts also pointed out in the ICSC report (ICSC, 2019), retailers have been making investments to enhance the in-store customer experience to entice consumers to show up and stick around. A big part of this is also investing in training their staff to use tech devices which helps them deliver a personalized experience. Physical stores, as well as digital channels, are essential ingredients to the success of retailers. For both driving digital engagement and improving overall retail brand health. After all, all the advancement in technology enables the retailing industry to now combine the digital world with the physical world experience. Which better fulfill customers’ changing demands. But to support this seamlessly it is imperative for retailers to invest in the right retail technology and tools that will ensure growth, profitability and scale for the retailer’s business in all aspects.   Authors: Marie Badruddin was an Omnichannel consultant at OrderDynamics. Marie has previous experience in Sales and Marketing in the hospitality industry such as Hilton Hotel & Resorts, and smaller key players in the consulting and non-for profit sector. She has completed her Master’s in Strategic Marketing & BBA degree from the University of Wollongong, Australia.     Renata de Almeida is an experienced financial consultant whose desire to take on new challenges took her to the USA and Canada. She holds an MBA from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), specializing in International Business with participation at the Universities of South Carolina and San Diego. She has also completed a Marketing Management Program at Seneca College, which led her to start her journey in this field. Her most recent role was Jr Marketing Coordinator at OrderDynamics.  
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