Amazon may be the king of personalising the online experience, but it will be missing a trick by not bridging the online/offline gap.
Since online shopping became the new normal, bricks-and-mortar retailers have faced a challenge: if you can’t compete on price and convenience, where does the future lie? To put it another way: what can they offer that online-only retailers like Amazon can’t?
With the news this week that Amazon has opened its first permanent store, that question is now particularly pertinent. Especially after looking at the details, it seems Amazon’s first attempt is aimed where the puck used to be, rather than where the smarter offline retailers have started to take it in recent years.
Like many online-only retailers, Amazon’s culture and success is built around using data to convert customers as efficiently as possible. That’s an important effort and one many retailers can learn from.
But, applied to the high street, this approach ignores a simple emerging fact: People shop online to save time and money. They shop offline to spend their time and money.
To really capitalise on that, you have to give them an experience that’s worth spending their time on – and just browsing shelves doesn’t cut it any more. Shoppers’ expectations have changed.
“Engaging in added-value experiences create better informed shoppers, give them better ways to spend their time and money”
Glenn Shoosmith, BookingBug
Offering everything from in-store expectant parent classes to pet nutrition sessions and beyond, these retailers understand that engaging in added-value experiences creates better-informed shoppers, gives them better ways to spend their time and money. And a reason to come back.
Crucially for offline retailers, these appointments allow the business to improve their understanding of the customer through the data they provide. It’s a win-win situation, customers get given a personalised experience and retailers are rewarded with increasing trust and loyalty.
Amazon may be the king of personalising the online experience, but it will be potentially missing a trick by not bridging the online/offline gap to give customers an unforgettable experience.
I can imagine them hosting a book launch at the store and inviting nearby customers who have bought similar books online to meet the author – now that’s giving them something they won’t get online.
Birchbox leading the way
And bear in mind, not all online-first retailers are missing this opportunity. By contrast, Birchbox’s first physical store was a veritable brand outpost. It has hosted pop-up events in London where people can book to have their nails done for free. It’s offering experiences, ways to spend time, not just buy products.
“Amazon may be the king of personalising the online experience, but it will be missing a trick by not bridging the online/offline gap”
Glenn Shoosmith, BookingBug
Given its business model of subscription services, it has a different relationship with customers built into its DNA.
The savviest of booksellers are fostering communities, hosting events and offering added value from knowledgeable, switched on floor staff. Amazon, it seems, will be selling books and devices you can get online and receive the next day anyway. On the face of it, it appears the etailing giant could be missing a huge opportunity here.
Looking at the evidence, you have to ask: who should be learning from who when it comes to the world of modern omnichannel success.
- Glenn Shoosmith is founder and chief executive of online booking firm BookingBug