Shopping behavior is undergoing dramatic change. Consumers today demonstrate non-linear shopping behavior. They will research online, use their communities for recommendations, look for product reviews online and then test the product in a store before making a purchase online. Then, they may want to pick up the product at a store nearby and also use the same store for after sales service or upgrades. Notice that neither the digital nor the brick-and-mortar environments play a central role. Together, they build out a more convenient experience for the customer.
Emerging shopping behavior is placing greater emphasis on tight integration between channels and brick-and-mortar stores. The focus of the integration should be on enriching the customer contact. This contact should result in richer customer data – which can then be used to improve the overall shopping/brand experience.
However, it is interesting to examine the characteristics of both shopping environments. When shoppers visit a brick-and-mortar store they generally tend to spend more time in the store, they are relaxed and open to being informed and entertained. This means bringing more focus to store locations and store formats that can help build stronger customer relationships. A digital presence of a store on the other hand caters to shoppers who are pressed for time, look for convenience and bargains and, strangely enough, are more susceptible to impulse shopping. Digital interactions with customers present the opportunity to make them instant champions of the brand, by ensuring they share their views and experience with others in their community. Digital interactions also present the opportunity to understand customers better and personalize offers making it more likely that they will stop by and make a purchase.
But the truth is that there is only one way to look at digital and brick-and-mortar: as a single, completely fused entity. Take this scenario: a customer walks into a brick-and-mortar store, checks out the merchandize, researches the options using a smartphone while standing in the store, places an order in the store over the mobile and collects the order right there. Consumers are buying online right from the store. Where is the difference between digital and brick-and-mortar?
It is no surprise then that retail giants are in a head-to-head race – one to improve digital presence and the other to improve brick-and-mortar presence. Recently, one of the largest retailers has gone on a technology shopping spree with the purchase of companies like Torbit, One-Ops, Tasty Labs and Inkiru that gives it the tools to manage data and make their digital presence more dynamic. On the other hand, other large retailers are boosting physical presence by establishing more warehouses and pickup locations. If there is visible convergence happening in retail, it is nowhere more apparent than in the convergence of digital and brick-and-mortar.