Single_LensConsumers are still craving the tactile experience of physical stores despite the ease of online shopping. The following explains how retailers can take a best-of-both-worlds approach and unify their channel strategies

Despite the vast inventory and convenience of shopping online, shoppers today are still drawn to physical store locations where they can tangibly touch items, process returns/exchanges and make purchases. Through the adoption of new technologies, retailers can secure a larger wallet share by giving consumers the best of both worlds, instead of pitting them against each other.

In-store and online retailer channels overall customer engagement and brand affinity can be strengthened by offering complementary benefits, and engaging customers via mobile. For retailers taking an integrated approach: higher revenues and profitability await.

Major retailers such as Amazon are making moves to expand their presence both online and in-store. Amazon have recently just acquired Whole Foods and are hoping to reinvent the customer experience with its logistics, supply chain and customer service prowess.

Touch and feel aspect should not be ignored

Corporate executives are realising for some online-only concepts the look before you buy experience requires a certain level of physical presence. Casper, an online-only mattress company, began a partnership with Target earlier this year to provide a touch-and-feel experience to its consumers and maximise its reach to consumers.

Whereas, Amazon have just launched Prime Wardrobe, which brings the fitting room to you. This service allows you to find your perfect fit and try on the latest styles before purchasing anything. With no upfront cost, Prime members can order clothes, shoes and accessories for a seven-day test drive. This approach is challenging the old school brick-and-mortar model, by giving apparel customers the ability to experience merchandise first-hand with the ease of shopping online.

Extra offline incentives based on online purchases

Big brands are considering driving online sales through incentives while pushing the shopper to the physical locations through free or heavily discounted add-on-items, discounts on purchases and superior customer service. An example of this can be seen with Walmart who have recently introduced a Pickup Discount scheme, this offers shoppers a discount on eligible online-only items that are shipped to individual Walmart locations for pickup.

Payment Perks

Amazon Prime Reload is a service that Amazon has recently introduced where a customer loads funds into their Amazon Balance via a debit card attached to a bank account, this then gives them 2 percent cash back on purchases.

Whether the consumer be in store, online or mobile, these perks cross channel lines and make it easier for them to do business with retailers in a way that makes the most sense for them. The use of secure cross-channel options to pay for items, such as Masterpass and Paypal are being offered by other retailers for convenience so that customers can skip long queues and pick up purchases immediately.

Beyond single-day and seasonal promotions

Large one-day sales such as Amazon Prime Day, have had good online sales results, while brick-and-mortar retailers have seen Black Friday-type sales no longer drawing in the same kinds of crowds and money as they used to. To serve the needs of all audiences, online and brick-and-mortar must band together in promotional and customer service strategies.

Convenience and rapid inventory availability provided online often trumps brick-and-mortar, despite their more personal customer experience. However, the same retailers can deliver the advantage of personalisation and accessibility of online shopping, tailored advice and support in product fulfilment, through an integrated approach.

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