The next prediction in our 2013 series involves the narrowing between off- and online retail. The ultimate goal in today’s market, for brands, retailers, and manufacturers alike, is a multi-channel consumer experience. From in-store, to online, to tablet and mobile devices, consumers who take advantage of all these methods — not just for purchasing but to do targeted research and for general learning — are brands’ most valuable shoppers. Why? Because numbers show these customers are the best spenders, they tend to be more educated about products, and more loyal to their favorite brands and stores. Most important, these shoppers are most likely to provide the personal data necessary for companies to track — and then improve — the multi-channel experience.
Brands and retailers are moving away from the idea of the site as a destination solely for e-commerce, the mobile site as a destination solely for m-commerce, and for those that have them, the brick and mortar stores as destinations solely for in-store shopping. Now, the goal is to create a seamless browsing, researching, learning, sharing and shopping experience across all these platforms. The site will encourage the in-store, the in-store will call on mobile, and so forth.
Sephora is an early adopter and standout when it comes to the multi-channel experience. The beauty retailer’s ‘To Go‘ app allows shoppers to use their mobile devices as personal scanners to access information not readily available in stores–extremely useful features like user reviews and demonstration videos. The app also provides incentives, such as opportunities to earn loyalty card points. On the e-commerce side, when logging into your Sephora.com account, users find every transaction, fully itemized, regardless of platform. By blurring the lines between off- and online retail, brands and stores can make a shopping experience more efficient, more tailored to the consumer, and better reflect the multi-channel world we live in. To break down these longstanding walls is no easy task, particularly because of the customer data collection challenge for smaller brands and manufacturers without stand-alone brick and mortar stores. But it is definitely the future.