We have all heard economists singing the praises of e-commerce, stating that soon all our consumerist needs will be met by online opportunities for purchasing products and services. Where does this evolution in lifestyle leave the brick and mortar outlet? Some would say the shop is becoming obsolete, but there is still a place for both sides of the shopping-coin.
Keeping true to brand identity on- and off-line
Consider the joy of walking into your favourite fashion outlet, hobby store or home décor supplier. Even before finding appeal in what the store has to offer, shoppers are confronted by the ambiance. These experiences are especially true of luxury brands where the storefront echoes the brand’s sophistication.
Although the physical experience of visiting such an outlet is location orientated, a similar “look and feel” can be achieved with a well-designed e-commerce site. A well-managed outlet will take special care to engage the senses of visitors with pleasant décor, music and inviting visuals. To carry a brand identity over into an online platform, equal attention must be paid to ensure the website echoes the sophistication and styling of the outlet.
A challenge in the world of online shopping is overcoming the absence of a client physically engaging in the merchandise. In the fashion industry, a shopper must decide whether they like a product’s appearance and price, as well as how it fits their body. Some web-based fashion suppliers have overcome this obstacle by allowing consumers to try clothing on in the comfort of their own home, and with their own existing wardrobe at hand, before committing to a purchase.
The human relationship
In our hyper digitalised world we often forget about the value of real human connection. A lot of client confidence lies in the ability to speak to an actual person who is knowledgeable about their product and approachable when it comes to negotiations.
Although online shopping provides convenience in other areas, consumers do value a personal relationship with a consultant or shop assistant when considering large purchases. Once a face-to-face sale has been made, future online sales through the same employee might be an avenue customers feel more comfortable exploring.
In the case of a purely online store, human interaction can still be achieved through personalised, friendly emails and phone calls wherein a particular employee ensures the happiness of a set portfolio of clients.
The critical balance
Some types of commerce are unavoidably dependent on offering a client the ability to try a product – for instance, a dealer of pre-owned cars must offer the option to test drive vehicles. Even here the successful marriage between a brick-and-mortal dealership and online shopping is still the best way to ensure a convenient shopping experience. A client can browse vehicle models and options within their budget at leisure before visiting the showroom to narrow down their choices, effectively saving time for themselves and the dealership.
In the case of a business reliant on closing the deal at a physical location, it is tempting to see the online aspect as secondary to the outlet. With the world becoming more and more digitalised, shop owners can no longer deny the value of online shopping. It is important to realise the significance of both sales platforms and use them in conjunction with one another to achieve the perfect shopping experience