3 Ways How Retailers Can Bridge The Online-Offline Gap

Online offline gap

Online shopping is amazing and it’s become a fad now. From ordering food to buying groceries, from movie tickets to hotel bookings, from shoes to clothes there’s nothing you cannot buy online. And everyone wants a piece of the action. Just recently Amazon started selling groceries, and Paytm started their own mall. But customers are now spoiled for choice, there are just so many options to choose from and where do they begin. Kind of like the old saying ‘Two is a company, But Three is a Crowd’?

While customers don’t hesitate buying groceries, movie tickets, and books online when it comes to jewellery, clothes or even furniture they still want to ‘touch and feel’ the product before buying. And those customers that buy clothes online only do so because of the discounts and offers. So they expect the same discounts in shops and malls as well.

In this tiff between the online and offline world, a lot of retailers are losing out on profits. Thus the only solution is to figure a way to bridge this online-offline gap. Check out how few companies are already doing this and why it makes so much sense for small businesses to do it as well:

#1. Home trials: In this method e-commerce players allow customers to try out the products at home before agreeing to buy them. Example: Furniture can be placed in your house to see if it is suiting your home décor and if it fits well, or jewellery is delivered at your doorstep for you to check the authenticity or clothes are sent home for you to try on. According to e-commerce sellers this option to transfer homes into trial rooms is a great way to bridge the online-offline gap.

Few successes of this method are Bluestone an online jewellery website, which tried out this concept in 2013 in metro cities and according to their data they receive 50-100 requests per day out of which 80% translates to purchases worth at least Rs. 50,000. Even Flipkart tried out this concept in Bangalore and Urban Ladder a furniture portal has got a conversion rate of at least 70% thanks to this method.

Although home trials might increase your costs, it also helps reduce returns. It builds a sort of trust with the brand and helps in building brand loyalty as well. For small e-commerce sellers you can try this at a small scale and if it works, take it further especially for the ones in the apparel or jewellery industry.

Related Article: FDI and its impact on the retail sector in India

#2. Online To Offline O2O: This is the online to offline model where an online platform such as an app or website connects users to offline stores.  They not only help users to locate the offline stores but also provide offers and discounts to encourage them to go to those places.

Brands like Zomato, Uber, Ola, Russshh are already using this concept. It’s a good way for small offline retailers to give their customers the online experience and also to increase their sales. These apps also connect to customers on a personal level by sending deals that suit the client best based on their preferences, locations, trends etc. Medium reported that in the John Lewis Retail Report 2014, customers spend three times more than the average if they are using both online and offline channel. And this isn’t only for big brands, even a small brand can use the 020 model to integrate online relations in their business.

#3. Omni-channel or Multi-channel approach: This method seeks to improve customer experience by having a multi-channel presence. This approach will increase sales as customers experience a seamless shopping experience whether it is online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a physical store.

Example: Fashlot a fashion store discovery platform gives its users an option to visit offline stores and experience the product before buying. It also increases sales by offering cashbacks and discounts at physical stores, all one needs to do is go on their app, check in and upload their bill. And a more sophisticated and improved version of the omni-channel approach is Alibaba’s new retail model through which consumers can scan QR codes with their phones at physical stores for product information and be directed to Alibaba’s online malls for purchases. Along with that, the new retail model has other benefits such as personalization of customer experience and efficient delivery routes.

Being a retailer, you’re now familiar with few of the ways to bridge the online-offline gap. These methods could be incorporated in your business on a trial basis. If they are successful consider investing in more because the future is Online-Offline integration! If you know any more such methods that companies are using, comment below and let us know. And don’t forget to Like, Share & Subscribe!

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