How to bridge the gap between physical and online retail

Retailers with a bricks-and-mortar and online retail presence are currently faced with the growing challenge of merging the advantages of both worlds into one seamless experience. 

The gold standard in building an online and bricks-and-mortar business is to create a unified and frictionless experience between both. Companies like Apple have mastered this challenge and customers don’t see them as an online or shop experience, rather one that delivers on all the needs of the customer.

According to Resonate Solutions chief executive Mita Bedi, customers don’t care so much about channel. For them, that’s not the point – they just want to have a good, seamless shopping experience with a brand whether it is in-person or online.  

Today’s customers now judge a retailer’s offline experience against its online experience, and vice versa. 

And to Bedi, while both channels have their unique advantages, it’s the retailers that integrate the pros of both channels together that will beat customer expectations 

Being able to offer a customer the personal shopping experience of a physical retailer as well as the speed and reliability of an online marketplace, regardless of channel, will put a retailer head and shoulders above its peers. 

And, being able to understand why a customer is buying a particular product, online or not, can give a business an emotional edge and access to information its competitors don’t have.

Bringing together the advantages of digital and physical

Digital native retailers have always had richer behavioural data. In the early days of online retail they relied on better data and insights to drive a customer experience that could compete with traditional retailers.

Using this data, online retailers become adept at matching buyer to seller very fast in order to drive business, as well as reaching new customers online by getting their brand in front of them when they were most likely to buy. 

“If we were to draw a Venn diagram, digital [retailers] didn’t have many of the advantages of the [physical retailers], and the inverse is also true,” said Bedi.

“When the only signal you have to survive is data, you’re going to become very good at using that.”

Bricks and mortar retailers, on the other hand, always had the customer sentiment advantage. 

Physical retailers may not have had the same level of behavioural data as their online counterparts, but they had rich emotional data on their customers. 

Retail staff could see how a customer was feeling about the purchase, ask questions about it and recommend something that might better suit their needs. In doing so, physical retailers more easily built trust and relationships with their customers.

The best retailers are able to utilise all of these advantages wherever the customer is.

And, after a year of isolation and lockdown, a more personal shopping experience is high on the priority list for many Australians. 

“Now that the external environment has changed customers’ needs, [they] want to build relationships with retailers that are going to provide the choice between the online and offline channel – but also provide the advantages of both.”

“Customers are understanding what they get from both [channels], and any brand that delivers both a little better [is going to do well],” Bedi said. 

That’s not to say a business needs to become a master at data analytics overnight in order to succeed: a brand still needs to play to its strengths, but it should start integrating some of the things customers are expecting now that it isn’t currently prioritising. 

“What we at Resonate enable in our products is a better understanding of customer sentiment, pre-purchase and post-purchase, throughout the customer’s journey,” Bedi said. 

“We bring together behavioural and emotional analytics to answer the questions of why someone is purchasing, will they purchase again, did they build or break loyalty, and how to bring all this data into strategies moving forward.”

Talk to Resonate Solutions to learn more about how you can build a seamless customer experience that drives revenue.

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