The future of online could be offline

in Technology by Helen MacDougall
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Online business needs

StyleTread: A step in the offline direction

StyleTread described placing their web-based kiosk in Westfield Parramatta as “our way of bringing our online store to you in an exciting and interactive way”. Customers were able to learn how to navigate the site, get a feel for the product and direct questions to the Customer Happiness Ambassador.

It seemed like a clever thing to do for a store with an until-then purely online presence – and it was. The store reported reaching 400,000 potential new customers in less than three weeks. Unfortunately for them, however, the dream was short-lived. Sydney has some of the highest retail rental prices in the world, and when the centre’s existing tenants noted how they had to pay vast sums in rent while StyleTread didn’t, the latter moved on.

It’s unlikely we’ve seen the last of them, though. Online stores are cropping up in shopping centres all over Australia, and existing businesses may have to do the same or risk losing customers.

What are the benefits of moving offline?

Whether it’s providing shoppers with interactive directions in a large store or allowing them to browse your online business from within your bricks-and-mortar store, the uses and advantages of bringing your online business offline are manifold:

•    Web-based kiosks with a link to your online business mean your customers can view all of your products – both online and offline – in one place, giving them a far greater selection and getting more of your products into the public domain.

•    Kiosks allow shoppers to research products and place orders without traipsing the aisles or carrying the products to the till. This is a major bonus in large, maze-like stores.

•    In the same vein, retailers can design smaller, more shopper-friendly stores, as not all of their products need to be on the shop floor.

•    Shoppers can customise items to their exact specification. For example, in computer stores, a customer can put together all the individual elements they desire – screen, programs, peripherals, etc. – and see the finished product they will be taking home. In a clothes shop, you can use programs to match items together, enhancing the customer experience and driving up sales.

•    Customers can use kiosks to view their shopping history and personal loyalty points, allowing them to engage more deeply with your brand.

•    In-store kiosks with links to the shop’s online store give customers access to even more products.

•    Some merchandisers are using in-store kiosks to help with administrative tasks, such as allowing job candidates to fill out kiosk-based application forms that managers can access through a web browser.

•    For salespeople, these devices mean a new and interesting way of interacting with customers. For example, helping them navigate the kiosk’s site. They can also, just like the customer, use the kiosk to see what’s in stock without having to leave the customer.

•    For online-only businesses, a pop-up kiosk could prove to be a huge boost to customer awareness and drive up sales.

Make sure your offline kiosk effective

If you decide that going offline is just what your online business needs, there are some important points to take into consideration. You need to keep it simple and user-friendly, otherwise your customers will be unlikely to return. Decide exactly how you think it will benefit your particular customers. Would ‘product search’ be its key function, or would it be best utilised to showcase your online business?

Make sure the purpose of your offline store is clear. Have a salesperson on hand to answer any questions and make sure it is consistently working. Technical difficulties could prove detrimental to offline success.

StyleTread’s foray into the offline world highlights the fact that we’re entering into an exciting new era for retail. Whether your customers are researching and buying online, through your catalogues, in-store, or using an iPad or mobile phone, they want and expect the very latest technology – and in-store kiosks are just that.

This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.

Related Keywords : Technology , Moving offline
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With six years of Advertising behind her and a commendable portfolio in tow, Helen decided to follow her passion for writing and set up as a Freelance Writer in 2012. Her writing shop, Copyfox, offers copy for predominantly digital channels - optimised website copy, website content and articles, eMail marketing activity and social media content and management. As well as a writer, Helen is also a Digital Producer, with a strong technical knowledge of online strategy, digital design and build.

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