A few years ago, building  a commerce website used to involve a huge time investment in terms of work hours and expertise. In most cases a variety of specialists with an array of skills were required to all work in cooperation to achieve their common objective. From the coding whizz, to the creative designer, to the SEO writer; there were a lot of moving parts to consider in this long and complicated process. Similar to building a website, there are a number of different skills and techniques required at different stages to successfully launch a brick and mortar shop.

Headlines everywhere dramatically herald the death of traditional shopping to make way for digital. But it’s not all doom and gloom. For example, Black Friday overtook Cyber Monday for the first time last year in the UK. Even if you have no plans to move beyond an online shop, it’s evident that there will always be a place for bricks and mortar when customer experience comes into consideration, and there are lessons that can be applied to either strategy.

Do ‘clicks’ and ‘bricks’ need to compete?

It’s easy to think of in-store and online as two separate, competing worlds, with one inevitably emerging as victor. But the stats say otherwise, with 44% of shoppers more likely to purchase online if they are able to pick up in-store, and 62% say they’re far more likely to purchase online if they are able to return an item in-store.

In-store and online shops may have their differences, but when optimised effectively they can work alongside each other to the benefit of both; this can only happen however, when you connect the dots between your online store and your offline strategy.

Connecting online to the offline

According to Ofcom, two thirds of Britons now own a smartphone, using it on average for two hours every day. And with its ever increasing usage, analysts now predict that consumer spending via mobile will top £53 billion by 2024. Additionally, according to the Telegraph, this year will see Black Friday sales top £1bn in the UK alone.

There are many ways that both online and offline can impact and benefit one another, especially in terms of your mobile implementation:

Personalised recommendations. These show excellent customer service and attention to each individual. You could send personalised suggestions to a customer’s phone whilst they are in-store.

Cross-selling opportunities. If a customer was considering one product, you could suggest complementary products via mobile. Beacons can be set up in different aisles so for example, messages promoting conditioners could be sent if a customer was browsing shampoos.

Targeted adverts. These could be used to advertise particular products/services as part of your wider display advertising and PPC campaigns. Try cross-promoting products in-store together with an online promotion to see which results in more sales.

Instantly available product and category information. Customers are able to view pre-populated product information instantly, which would help to inform their purchase and encourage them to buy.

Customer loyalty and increasing advocacy. You could send personalised deals and offers to individual customers such as single-use promo-codes or time-sensitive discounts. Tesco has created a free app that stores Clubcard information, so checkout staff are able to scan the customer’s phone in place of a forgotten Clubcard, while retailers including Pizza Express and WagaMama are also utilising tech by enabling customers to pay for their food via smartphones.

Where the future lies for omni-retail

The very notion that the average consumer is always connected to technology at any point in their day represents a valuable opportunity for brands to connect with them digitally and so technology is developing for this purpose:

  1. Beacon technology presents a real opportunity for real-time alerts on deals/customer promotions based on locality and previous spend. French retailer Carrefour for example, has improved its in-store experience with beacons, helping customers to navigate their department store more effectively.
  2.  Smart activity trackers or wearables such as the Apple Watch can monitor and update based on how people react to a given environment.
  3. Virtual reality has great implications for the in-store experience: Oculus Rift, Microsoft, HoloLens and Google Cardboard are on board to enable immersive experiences.
  4. Companies that use apps like Blippar can offer customers contextually-rich and personalised content tailored to them.

Ultimately, the modern consumer wants a fluid user journey that provides a simpler and more personalised way to shop, whether it means they walk into a store or arrive off the back of a Google search.