Judith Ramshaw
Royal Quays Outlet Centre

Member Article

Online vs Offline

Royal Quays’ Judith Ramshaw looks at the online vs offline mix for retailers.

‘It’s good to talk’ - a well-known phrase and one that can partly sum up the difference between internet shopping and stepping into a physical store.

E-commerce is now a 24/7 customer retail experience. The web is never switched off and customers are now used to being able to access and enjoy the convenience that it offers from the comfort of their own home. So whilst the high street is having a down turn in business, companies and brands like Jackpot Capital online are experiencing a huge increase in customer interest due to services provided and a trusted reputation being built. Whether shopping or leisure, the high street now has many competitors online who are raising the bar on service, cost effectiveness and appeal.

With the sad news this month that another high street giant, HMV, will go into administration, you could be forgiven for wondering if ‘online’ is to blame for its demise like so many others…

However, it’s simply not that clear-cut.

Today’s retailer readily accepts that to trade strongly, it can take a healthy mixture of channels to reach consumers which includes e-commerce and physical stores.

HMV had these tools and still it doesn’t seem to have been enough. Perhaps, in the case of the music sector, like so many others before them, HMV struggled to adapt to the way people prefer to develop their music collections through digital downloads and found themselves left out in the cold by being a little behind the times…

Interestingly also, was the move from the Government to close the loophole allowing some of the most popular online retailers including HMV, Play.com and Amazon to sell VAT-free CDs and DVDs from the Channel Islands, offering prices that many other retailers found hard to compete with. This may even up the playing field a little for those who remain.

In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, it is easy to see how buying products via the click of a button is certainly appealing but for other customers, there is still great pleasure to be had from the traditional shopping experience.

From an outlet perspective, it is important that our sector offers customers a special shopping experience whatever route they choose to come through.

Shopping offline for many consumers is still a real treat, a day for family or friends to catch up as they browse stores and enjoy a coffee together. Here, operators need to be mindful of every detail from the first impression when approaching a store, the greeting upon entry, the presentation of goods on offer and the resulting customer service.

When it comes to online, brands that offer flexibility, speed and quality guarantees stand to do well but innovation is key for survival in this tough market. Here, we are seeing more and more brands using online to offer more in terms of ‘experience’.

There is no doubt that an online presence serves as a great shopping addition to many of our physical stores. Indeed, most brands now do both, encompassing an all round pleasurable customer shopping experience and reinforcing the principals of good old fashioned customer service. In today’s market, those who have a creative combination of tools to reach their audience and with a solid emphasis on the ‘experience’ may see customers return again and again.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Royal Quays Outlet Centre .

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