September 19, 2013

Clicks & Bricks

Over the past few years we have seen the constantly growing battle between online and offline. We've been trying to understand how to drive traffic back to stores and preserve traditional retail models. However, maybe it's no longer one world versus the other.

As the rapid growth of e-commerce forces retail stores to change, the use of mobile technology in shops is becoming increasingly the norm and creating a new experience that drives traffic back to brick and mortar. Underestimate retail operations no more because the truth is we really can have the best of both worlds as we learn to push omni-channel retailing to new heights.

Mobile commerce has changed the entire interface of shopping. From stimulating impulsive buys to enabling shopping from anywhere across the globe, it's all at the click of a button. Not only can consumers download mobile apps that direct them straight to a site but many brands save credit card information and offer online exclusive items. These new features are challenging brick and mortar operations to give their shoppers the same convenient, personalized, and beneficial services that online retailers can so easily provide.

As consumers use mobile technology to compare reviews, price check, and find coupons, how are stores driving traffic and maintaining the incentive to shop? Through apps that allow customers to check in via social media, price matching guarantees, ipads in fitting rooms, and in-store pickup, physical stores create an experience that interacts with all five senses. By creating a multi-sensory environment, stores can compete with online giants like by giving their customers the choice between both in-store and online. The key is to merge the two worlds and as a result, many are shipping directly from their shop locations to speed up delivery times and reduce clearance merchandise by selling from their own inventory versus a separate online one.

The changing retail industry is calling for a shift in the way we market and reach consumers as well. With that said, retailers are adjusting their strategies to rely more heavily on social media. From Oscar de la Renta to J. Crew, brands are beginning to launch their fall collections on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram before they hit more traditional outlets like print and television.

photo via Adweek

And forget the use of your perfect six foot model because real people's photos are what you may be seeing in future campaigns. Customers are demanding something they can relate to and research shows that user generated images up conversion rates. Brands like Urban Outfitters, Rebecca Minkoff, Under Armour,, and are in the works of beta testing the platform Fanreel, which locates hashtagged photos on social networks and integrates them to retailers' websites. This is just the beginning because these new marketing tactics could eventually translate into brick and mortar operations.

photo via WWD

Not to mention, there's a new ad agency in town. Launched by former Topshop CMO, Justin Cooke, Innovate7 is a disruption agency that hopes to revamp the current advertising model and bring a renewed sense of modern thinking and technology back into marketing. With plans to create a more "emotive experience," the team of 6 consists of professionals with backgrounds from Nike to Burberry to Facebook and Apple are exactly the types of people that think outside the box enough to lead the face of retail into the future.

Will brick and mortar ever go extinct? Probably not, but it will go through a massive transformation as we continue to introduce new technology and innovation to create multi-sensory experiences for shoppers. The important thing we need to remember is that brick and mortar stores, e-commerce, and social media are all linked and feed off of one another. As we begin to understand how to successfully merge the online and offline worlds, the potential of seamless retailing is unimaginable. 

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