The offline stores that have clicked how we shop online

Jul 20, 2016

“Omnichannel is already legacy thinking that represents a limited approach for designing and delivering services” – Ronald Rogowski, principal consultant at Forrester

Physical versus digital. Online versus offline. Bricks versus clicks. When talking about omnichannel retail, it’s easy to treat each side as separate and polar customer experiences, rather than as one and the same approach.

As a result of treating experiences separately, many stores simply aren’t equipped to deal with customers that have pre-researched online, or who use social media or mobile phones to save and share their discoveries. Even the way that retailers arrange their goods or how customers navigate stores and digest information is at odds with how today’s digital-first shopper explores and thinks.

GDR has talked extensively about moving beyond omnichannel and treating retail with a unified approach. The complexity of the customer journey and the blurring of channels make the term “omnichannel” seem almost redundant when you evaluate customer experience in terms of consistent touchpoints. “Instead of thinking about all channels, companies should focus on the touchpoints that align with customer needs and the business’s strategic goals,” advises Forrester’s principal consultant Ronald Rogowski.

The launch of the first Amazon physical bookstore last year is therefore an interesting approach to accommodating digital behaviours in-store. Stock is curated by what’s popular and what’s actually selling well on the website, and books are categorised in ways that customers would explore online: for example, books are grouped into categories such as “4.8 rating and above”, and select titles even feature genuine reviews from readers online. An online app and an in-store kiosk for search enable customers to approach their journeys through familiar digital touchpoints, with the ability to scan barcodes for price options and to find any book in the store like searching at a library. The formula seems to be working, as Amazon opened its third store in Portland, Oregon, last month.

Shoe store’s click-and-collect area keeps foot traffic in step

This shoe store’s click-and-collect area keeps foot traffic in step

More recently, the size? store’s revamp in London’s Carnaby Street has an interesting take on the customer journey: it has segregated its click-and- collect depot from the rest of the store, so that customers can wait to pick-up their goods away from the chaos of the shop floor. With many stores using click-and-collect as a way to satisfy how we shop online, size? treats pick-up as its own mission-based shop separate to discovery and comparison that can take place either in-store or on the web. This therefore removes the barriers of confusion and distraction in helping customers collect their shoes.

Related content: Digital-only banks: are they on the money?

As showrooming becomes a common practice in-store, many retailers are embracing it and providing tools to assist in-store research and information capture: the recently opened flagship in Paris features a research station where customers can get to grips with micro 3D models of furniture, view renderings of their envisioned rooms on iMacs, and take home with them fabric cut-outs of each of the SKUs found in-store. Naturally, this is in addition to its partnership with Cloudtags, where customers can carry an iPad with them around the store and tag products they like to create a digital receipt recording their in-store interactions.

Pinterests’ physical shop floor buttons at Tok&Stok

Taken a step further, a Brazilian furniture store has attached physical Pinterest buttons to key items in-store, giving social shoppers a shortcut in pinning what they like to their own boards online. Tok&Stok has recognised that many shoppers will come to its store for inspiration and then buy later, and this fun activation helps facilitate a very digital behaviour.

A retailer that’s taking a truly digital-first approach to its store is Argos: recognising the frustration of coming in-store only to find out that an item isn’t in stock, Argos has tapped into Google search results to inform online users if their searched-for product happens to be available in their nearest store. A bar on the right hand side of the searched term will appear, giving customers directions to the nearest Argos store stocking their desired product.

There’s little doubt that stores are changing to match how we behave online. The touchpoints and the methods in place to support digitally-influenced journeys shouldn’t be thought of as experiences divorced from one another, but as one and the same approach in retail.

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