Online pop up – let’s get phygital
Merging online retail with offline (pop up) strategies.
In almost every type of business it makes very good sense to listen closely to customers… discover what they like about the products or services (or don’t…), what they expect from the brand and what they’d like to see next… Retail is no exception – in fact it’s critical to be abreast (or ahead) of customer preferences.
There’s really only a handful of true visionaries who can predict the retail trends. Sadly, the rest of us are followers… we listen (and respond) to what we’re told. All too often retailers only see a shift in customer tastes when there’s already stock committed… with shelves of products that nobody really wants to buy !
It’s as much a challenge for online retailers as the traditional bricks and mortar outlets – but (in theory) the online guys should be better equipped to respond quickly and appropriately. Whether it’s bricks-and-mortar or a virtual store, an analysis of sales and inventory will quickly show what’s popular with customers – but not necessarily why… That’s where shop-floor feedback is critical – interactions with real buyers can provide insights into what is more likely to move quickly (and with a healthy margin). Traditional retailers will probably learn those lessons early (from direct / genuine customer sentiments) – but often don’t have the agility to react swiftly. On the other hand, an online store (with greater autonomy) should have the capacity to make changes… once they understand what’s trending (or not). Wouldn’t it be helpful for online stores to gain those bricks and mortar insights ?
There’s now a swell of industry experts advocating a blend of the 2 retails… merging the technologies and benefits of e-commerce with the old-fashioned customer (physical store) experience – which could offer a solution to the online lag in understanding customer preferences.
ABC.net.au ran an article recently discussing the concept of a “phygital” retail strategy. Paul Greenberg of NORA (“the voice of new retail”) is quoted as saying “”What retailers are seeing is that customers are demanding and getting multi-touch points with their brand of choice. As a result we’re seeing online retailers increasingly moving into some kind of ‘phygital’ connection with their customers…That’s taking on different forms, whether it be a pop-up shop or a truck that the retailer might have, a showroom or even a partnership with an existing retailer… Many online shops are finding they need some kind of physical presence, if their aim is to really grow their business.”
The same article says that 85% of shopping is done in shopping centres (online shopping makes up around 7% of Australian retail sales) and “on average a specialty retail shop converts about one in five customers to actually buy something. Online converts only 2 to 3 per cent, so while pure-play online retailers might talk about unique visits, the dollars in the till are really the topic.”
However, there are lessons for online business who might consider a step into full-time retail… the higher costs and loss of flexibility can be an un-welcome burden on a brand. ABC# cites the experience of Shoes of Prey – the incredibly successful custom shoe brand who stepped into David Jones (Sydney, early 2013) and Nordstrom (USA, late 2014) – but recently closed those concessions to return to their original online roots.
Isn’t this where the benefits of pop up shopping come in ? Pop ups can offer real customer engagement at relatively low cost and commitment for online brands – but with the independence and flexibility to respond to market expectations. Many e-commerce businesses use physical pop up stores as a strategy – occasionally relocating across town (or across the country) to reach new customers, building their fan base (and data base) along the way – whilst offering buyers the opportunity to “meet the brand” and consolidate their virtual relationships…And when it suits them (the online business… not the customer, nor the major retailers)… they pop down again, conserving their resources – to plan their next pop up (and consider their product range !)
images : Lets get Phy-gital, Shoes of Prey, Phygital (Google Images)
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