The line between the online world and the physical one is blurring. With more and more high street shops closing down and many businesses flocking online, some might say that there is little demand for physical outlets to guide the customer experience. Indeed, the growth of Netflix and the downfall of Blockbuster is one such example: some businesses may be better off online. Despite this, rumours are swirling that Amazon are planning to open a permanent retail store in Seattle or New York, and earlier this year it opened its first physical store on the campus of Purdue University in Indiana. For a company that gained its market advantage from being an online-only presence, this raises an important question: why?
What are the benefits of an integrated online and offline experience?
Environment is important. Having an online and an offline presence is all about engaging the customer at their most-visited locations. A store that acts as an extension of a website is the pinnacle of integrated experience. By cherry-picking the best of its online offerings and presenting them in an interactive environment, a brand can communicate its vision through a physical medium.
Both design and presentation of the store emphasise a stronger brand identity and can deliver the online promise of your brand to the costumer in the real world. Think of this offline presence less as a store and more as a showroom, with staff acting as brand ambassadors rather than salespeople to reinforcing the brand’s image and enhancing customers’ retail experience both online and offline.
Outside of the branded customer experience, integrating digital technology into the customer's journey in the physical world creates a fun and personal customer journey. iPads, interactive displays and Apple Pay appeal to tech-savvy clientele, whose expectations are shaped by constantly evolving technology that augments our physical experiences.
There’s a simple argument for the integrated online and offline experience: convenience. We all like to try before we buy, especially before committing to ordering something online. An offline presence offers your customers the opportunity to interact with your product.
Additionally, who hasn’t missed a delivery before? The collection depot can be a long way off, so an in-store pick-up service can work wonders for the impatient among us. These physical touchpoints are able to shape how consumers approach and use your online presence. Similarly, many online retailers are forming partnerships to facilitate this convenience with services such as Click & Connect or pick-up locations at local stores.
Although we are becoming increasingly immersed in the online world, we do still live in an offline one. Iterations and showrooms of digital business offer an interactive customer experience and allow consumers to physically explore a brand and its products, improving brand recognition and identity. Brands need to create both physical and digital touchpoints to bridge the two worlds and form a single-brand integrated customer experience.