Opinion

The multi-dimensional future of retail: Online players getting into the offline game

5 min read

20 October 2015

Gone are the days where successful retailers can be one dimensional. In order to compete, they need to have a multi-dimensional strategy with online, offline and interactive.

With the rapid technological advancement and high experience expectation of the next generation of consumers (millennials and beyond), for retailers to be successful in the future they need to consider a minimum of three dimensional approach: online, offline and virulent (augmented + virtual reality).

Online retail experiences

While online retail has always had an edge in creating personalised shopping experiences, until recently it was never able to engage beyond screens to touch consumers directly.

Amazon is leading the way when it comes to testing new retail technologies. The Amazon Dash button empowers the tech-savvy consumer to reorder household products at the click of a button, using a small internet-enabled device. The internet giant also recently launched Amazon Home Services, an on-demand installation and handyman service.

Online to offline experiences

In the world of luxury and fashion, we have seen companies shift from online to offline experiences, from opening offline stores to merging or buying offline outlets. Independent online boutique retailer Farfetch bought one of London’s favourite boutiques, Browns, with the aim of creating a “pioneering mix of technology and in-store experience”.

Farfetch hopes that the new relationship will help develop a global technology platform that will “shape the retail experience of the future”.

Read more on the changing retail landscape:

The changing store experience

The role of the retail store has changed, especially when it comes to servicing the next generation of demanding customers who expect diversity (variety of touch points) and quality customer experience (both online and offline).

The behaviour of this millennial shopper coupled with the growing ‘webrooming’ phenomenon, where consumers research products online but prefer to buy them in-store, is transforming the in-store experience.

A survey commissioned by InReality, revealed that 75 per cent of shoppers use their mobile phone in-store, while 25 per cent of those shoppers make purchases on their mobile devices while in-store. This shift in consumer behaviour has been one of the key factors in encouraging offline stores to use technology to increase customer engagement.

Discover more on embracing webrooming and the rise of pop-up shops on the next page

Webrooming

Talking about multi-dimensional shopping and experiences: augmented reality is giving the raise to the next level of webrooming and steps it up when it comes to convenient shopping we often talk about.

Until recently webrooming would refer to customers doing their research online but ultimately buying products offline or in-store. With the accessibility and availability of such applications as Augment, shoppers can now ‘try’ a variety of products from the convenience of their chosen location.

With the tap of the screen, such innovators are working on minimising the guesswork in buying as well allowing for an instant product access. This is a major change in customer shopping experience where companies are looking into more dimensional retail capabilities.

Companies such as Coca-Cola, Loreal and Siemens are already experimenting with the technology and we expect many more to follow.

Pop-up shops

Pop-up shop startup Appearhere – recently a partner of the Virgin Foodpreneur Festival – is making it easy for companies and brands to test their offline strategy.

The British company is an online marketplace for shop space and connects landlords to renters and has already been used by companies including Google and Microsoft to find short-term space.

The future of retail is multifaceted and diverse and needs to consider a multi-dimensional approach.

Viktoria de Chevron Villette is the co-founder of Millennial 20/20. The Millennial 20/20 Summit is the world’s first gathering of brands, businesses and industry leaders who target the Millennial generation, taking place in April 2016. For more information please visit: www.millennial20-20.com.