While 14 shops close every day in the UK, a number of e-tailers are moving into the physical retail space trying their hand at bringing the online experience offline via immersive and experiential activations. This is hardly surprising, given shoppers continue to crave real-life, tangible experiences.
But what does this look like in practice and what do e-tailers need to be aware of?
Transporting a brand’s presence from online to offline requires a certain ‘touch’, and there are a number of considerations e-tailers need to be aware of. For example how the different sensory techniques can be used to bring the physical environment to life. Our research shows that engaging the senses positively affects customers during their in-store experience, making it more enjoyable for them.
Given the average consumer only spends two minutes on a webpage, compared to anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes in-store, offline activations can provide e-tailers with a lot more time to interact with potential shoppers. This is magnified by the fact that on average, only 3 percent of consumers visiting a website make a purchase, meanwhile 1 in 2 consumers entering a store leave with a shopping bag with at least a purchase made. Offline spaces provide a unique vehicle to present the essence of a brand in tangible form, and to deliver on the brand promise that is presented online.
The power of social media in-store
As online and offline experiences merge, e-retailers trying out physical retail for the first time should think about the power of social in the in-store environment. Why not integrate the social interactions that consumers expect via their mobiles to deliver a more engaging and interactive offline space?
For instance, we have created a mobile marketing tool called Mood Social Mix that gives customers the opportunity to have their say on the music that is played in-store. Designed to amplify a retailer’s existing social media strategy, Social Mix is a jukebox-like experience that lets consumers personalise their in-store experience while influencing a curated on-brand playlist. Turning music into a social listening experience can be a great way to attract customers, boost social media interaction and drive shoppers to a retailer’s online site.
Taking advantage of seasonal trends
E-tailers should also consider experimenting with a series of seasonal offline activations. Amazon has brought back its Black Friday pop-up for a second year with brands including Samsung, Lego and Canon. With prizes, workshops, VIP experiences and product sampling, the offline store will allow Amazon to bring to life the brands it sells in a more tangible way, while also offering the types of experiences it wouldn’t be able to offer online and knowing it’s clients in real-life. In a similar vein, popular gifting e-tailer Notonthehighstreet has ventured into bricks-and-mortar with its Christmas pop-up shops in Westfield London and Waterloo station. According to the company, they decided to launch the pop-up because “the incredible skill and craftsmanship behind the products can sometimes be lost in an online world”.
Maintaining brand values across all channels
The offline experience should always be an extension of an e-tailer’s online presence, and vice versa. Just like a retailer shouldn’t override their brand personality during seasonal moments like Christmas, the experience from online to offline also needs to be consistent so that the customer continues to feel an emotional connection across multiple touchpoints. For example, our research shows that 67% of shoppers think that if a shop plays music they like it’s a brand they can relate and connect to.
If the client then goes to the online site and has a completely different experience, the customer journey becomes disjointed. This is just one example of how important it is not only to create an emotional connection with customers, but also ensure this is consistent across all channels.
Overall, it’s clear that e-tailers have recognised the potential that physical retail spaces offer – particularly when it comes to surprising and delighting customers. Importantly, though, e-tailers need to think about the offline experience beyond simply a marketing ‘stunt’.
Ultimately, it’s about providing consumers with a more engaging shopping experience at a time when consumers are favouring tangible experiences, and using this to time to connect with them on a more personal level. It will be interesting to see whether this trend continues in 2019, and which e-tailers manage to take things to the next level.
By Linda Ralph, VP International Development at Mood Media