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Monday / October 26.
HomemilastwordOnline v. Offline

Online v. Offline

I don’t like going to the shops, so buying the latest Vans online seemed a no brainer. I scoured the web for a reputable site, scanned it for the style I liked, clicked pay and done. Easy.

Three days later my order arrived. I was rapt… until I tried them on. They didn’t fit. They were the same size as my old Vans, but not as wide. I had to send them back. That’s when the ease of the process unravelled. I filled out an online form, printed off the label and stood in line at the Post Office for the first time in years.

My new Vans arrived a couple of weeks later. All up, the process took a few hours plus a couple of weeks waiting.

There’s no question online shopping is huge. Roy Morgan Research highlights that last year Australians spent AU$41.3 billion (of the $101 billion spent on ‘things’) shopping online, with 40 per cent of us making a purchase at least once a month. But no matter how appealing and convenient online shopping is, we still prefer bricks and mortar. The arrival of massive players like Zara, H&M, Uniqlo, ALDI, Costco and Amazon this year pays testament to that.

customers… want a more integrated offline and online shopping experience

With an estimated 76 per cent of online sales (around $31 billion) staying in Australia, online shopping isn’t the threat it once was to local business and neither is the offline opportunity extinct. It’s simply a different value proposition.

Today, customers are telling retailers they want a more integrated offline and online shopping experience. Innovative bricks and mortar stores are leveraging technology to provide ‘showroom’ presentations at the shopfront that improve the customers’ instore experience and influence their purchasing decision then and there. Clutter and old signs are a thing of the past and a sure-fire way to repel.

Personalised service and expertise are the main separators between offline and online worlds. They build customer relationships and are the core reasons why people keep going back to retail stores. It takes a person, another human, to make a connection with the customer, to show the outfit or glasses that work best for them. This type of connection is something that a website can’t deliver, no matter how good it is. Staff instore can help direct a customer to what they need, whereas the best an online store can do is offer a resource centre, videos or blogs to look through. It’d be quicker to jump in the car and then walk into a store.

The customer today is very different to even just a few years ago. They respond more positively to soft selling tactics that focus on building relationships and creating a positive brand impression. Hard sell tactics no longer have influence. Today, people want user-friendly interactions with their retailer. The once popular sales maxim of “always closing” has come to an end. Now its about “always connecting”.

References
State of the Nation 26: Australian Retail Industry. 24 Nov 2016. Roy MorganComparing Online and Offline Shoppers: Is There a Difference? Alex McEachern. 21 July 2017.
Bricks-and-mortar retailers hold firm against online competitors. Frank O’Brien. 10 Jul 2017. Western Investor

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