The balance between online and offline will determine the future success of retailers

The challenges imposed by the pandemic have led to the emergence of some innovative solutions for businesses to continue on evolving during a difficult time. We have seen how new business ideas have been developed and started to thrive, addressing the new needs of the market. The boundary between retail and other industries continues to disappear as new mixed business concepts emerge: restaurant brands or supermarkets that produce and sell their self-branded line of clothes or retailers that also offer digital services – this mix is increasingly present abroad, but has also gained ground on the local market (as is the example of the famous sneakers made by a famous supermarket chain in the country).

Buying habits have also changed during this time, and an integrated solution that connects multiple channels, simplifying operations behind it, can help retail players achieve notable results. As consumers become more and more comfortable with e-commerce and omnichannel options, they become less tolerant of what they find in stores as a buying experience. And as physical stores are increasingly similar in products and services offered, consumers will focus more on price and comfort, attributes associated with the online buying experience.

Traditional vs. online retail

Although traditional retail seems to be losing ground to online stores, physical stores have little chance of disappearing completely, however we would imagine the future will look in this sector. Though in order to be able to compete with the online, traditional retailers can look at physical stores from a new perspective that will turn a seeming disadvantage into an asset.  

A study conducted in the UK in 2019 shows how physical stores positively influence online sales. According to the results of this study, 90% of the value spent in retail in the UK is directly influenced by the presence of physical stores. A retailer’s online sales double in the immediate vicinity of their physical store, and retailers who do not own a physical store alongside the online one usually have 50% lower online sales compared to those merchants who also have a physical presence (source). Thus, the online and offline can work complementary.

Customers want the advantages offered by digital, such as a large selection of products, in-depth information about each of them, reviews and advice from other buyers who have already tried the product. On the other hand, they want to benefit from the advantages of physical stores, such as qualified staff in stores or personal service, the opportunity to interact with the product before buying it, as part of the experience offered by such an environment, where physical interaction is everything.

Different customer segments will appreciate different stages of the shopping experience, but they will all look for the best possible integration between physical and digital. The challenge for retailers is to be open to innovation to bring such a vision to life, attracting customers and generating profitable growth.

Innovation attracts new audiences

Retailers have a variety of options at their fingertips through which they can reach consumers in different moments of the consumer journey. If in the past retailers laid all their foundations in mass-market advertising, today they have the chance to personalize each promotional material according to the profile of the consumer who reaches it through many more channels, online or offline.

The campaigns carried out omnichannel and implemented by Mediascope have a much stronger impact than the campaigns carried out only in-store. Of course, the key element of a campaign that is based on experience, interaction and knowledge of the brand universe by the consumer, must also have a digital component, for a better visibility and to bring consumers to the stores.

The most recent gamification campaign conducted by Mediascope for an international brand had in-store activations with finality towards a landing page where the consumer had the opportunity to get acquainted with that brand and to enter the contest.  Retailers that rely on omnichannel have the chance to attract both customers who respond to the old ways of marketing and a target for which innovation is the basis of most purchasing decisions.

An example that illustrates how you can attract a new segment of customers, finding them exactly where and when they are willing to listen, is the experiment conducted by South Korea’s Home Plus supermarket, owned by retail giant Tesco. As part of a pilot program, Home Plus covered the walls of Seoul metro stations with realistic images of the shelves with products from its supermarkets, from a multitude of categories.

Thus, while waiting for the subway, the consumers that were too busy to have time for a long shopping session in stores, had the chance to order the necessary products through a simple scan of the QR code with the phone, assembled the shopping cart directly online, ordered and paid directly in the application in the phone, and a few hours away, the products were delivered to them by the supermarket directly at the door.

According to Tesco, more than 10,000 consumers benefited from the service within the first three months of its launch, and online sales increased by 130%. A year later, in 2012, the same retailer was implementing a similar idea, using interactive digital screens, at an airport in the UK.

Solutions will still exist for those players in the field who will be willing to invest in innovation and stay connected to the reality on the ground. We will see more and more brands turning to omnichannel, and the in-store experiences will become more significant for the purchase decision.

Consumers want the convenience of online, but they are looking for an entertaining and useful offline experience as well. Brands have the chance to attract new consumers through creativity and to keep them for long periods with the help of an integrated, online-offline strategy.

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