Headlines have highlighted the untimely death of many a brick-and-mortar company with the arrival of an online commerce competitor. The battle is now over. That’s because brick-and-mortar and digital are now one in the same. You can’t have one without the other. The proliferation and rapid evolution of smartphones places ecommerce right into the heart of every physical store – and if the retailer acts now, they can use this to their advantage.

This past holiday shopping season, 70% of shoppers used a mobile phone while in a retail store. Says Norty Cohen, founder and CEO of Moosylvania,

“They are researching reviews, comparing prices, photo sharing and making purchases in seconds, and prefer doing so equally online and in-store.”

But if store-owners worry that shoppers may be gathering information in their aisles only to go home and buy online later, they’ve got an even bigger nightmare to worry about – consumers are buying online right in the middle of your store. Digital and physical have become one.

How to respond to this real-time showrooming? Recognize that worlds are now united, and design your shopping experience to embrace both the physical and digital realms as one – especially via mobile. This is the way consumers want to shop; 80% of smartphone owners want more mobile-optimized product information while they’re shopping in stores. Josh Marti, CEO of Point Inside, elaborates:

“Mobile is about taking the ‘digital’ part of retailing into the store where more than 90 percent of retail happens. Now the opportunity exists to really connect mobile with key physical aspects of the store. Making that connection increases the shopper engagement and drives increase sales and customer loyalty.”

Mobile will influence one in five in-store sales by 2016. Grabbing that mobile attention doesn’t just mean offering an app – it means offering mobile experiences tailored specifically for in-store shoppers. Retailer apps with “store mode” are shown to garner five times more engagement, says Josh.

Uniting digital and online isn’t just about mobile

Consumers actually want retailers to facilitate this combination of online and offline shopping – 54% would like to use digital touchscreens in stores. Retailers that proactively bring digital into their stores can keep shoppers’ attention in their own branded experiences, rather than straying to a competitor’s mobile offering.

Jamie Nordstrom, President of Nordstrom Direct, gets this. At last year’s Shop.Org Summit, he keynoted about leveraging the stellar service Nordstrom provides in their physical store locations to reinforce the online sale and visa versa. Go online, search the inventory of a local store, buy a shirt from your laptop, and schedule it for pick-up right at the local store on same day. Go into a physical store and meet knowledgeable sales staff armed with iPhones who can search inventory of all local stores while they are helping you and then transact on the spot. That’s the power of an omnichannel experience.

Burberry CMO, Angela Ahrendts, gets it, too. At this summer’s Dreamforce event in San Francisco, Ms. Ahrendts spoke of Burberry’s 44,000 square foot flagship multimedia store in London. Over 100 digital screens, RFID tags that spawn digital content, and helpful staff armed with iPads loaded with customers’ shopping histories – Burberry is aggressively leveraging conversion of in-store and online shopping experiences.

The future of retail is at hand. The threats are in the paper every day but more importantly, the opportunities are ripe for the taking. Understand the key trends. We’ve identified those that we think will define the shape of retail in our new white paper, available here

3 Responses to ““Bricks-and-mortar vs. online commerce” – the battle has ended”

  1. louis salazar

    The customer is always right….an old adage that successful businesses are wise to heed.

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