By Andrew Witkin, founder and president, StickerYou
There’s a growing duality in today’s consumer reality. Average shoppers probably have but vague memories of a time before they bought anything online, yet they still haven’t avoided the brick-and-mortar stores altogether: E-commerce sales from 2018 reached 18% of total UK retail sales.
Traditional retail simply cannot offer the convenience of e-commerce. Yet mobile and computer screens cannot offer the same tactile experience one might find at an outlet or store, where each item can be individually held and evaluated. That’s why omni-channel marketing—an approach that’s all about improving the customer experience through a mix of online and physical retail—has arisen from this duality. Co-ordinating online marketplaces through multiple channels—offline brick and mortar spaces, mobile apps and social media—lets companies connect holistically to consumers and drive online sales.
Of course, the choice to shift to an omni-channel approach needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. An omni-channel strategy will not be the right fit for everyone. But if an e-commerce company has a product or service that offers a unique, in-person experience that cannot be replicated online, then personally interacting with a company’s product could benefit online sales. When evaluating whether an omni-channel strategy is right for your business, weigh the current per-click costs of advertising against the potential costs of driving individualized shopping experiences through in-store consumer brand interactions, drop-ins and walk-by traffic. If in-store brand interactions, walk-bys and drop-ins are considered as impressions, a brick and mortar store that breaks even or operates at a loss can still be supported by long-term incremental increases in sales from both from the brick and mortar store and online store, and lowered cost-per-click ad spend.
More e-commerce players have therefore made the calculated decision to establish physical retail presences. For instance, StickerYou, a global e-commerce leader in die-cut sticky products, is now opening a brick and mortar retail space in 2019 to welcome customers to personally connect to our products and brand. We want to give customers the chance to feel the texture and quality of a sticker, to be inspired by the creativity of stickers and sticker culture, and to discover ways in which they can express themselves using our products, whether it be for personal or business purposes.
Customers will be able to engage with our products both in-store and online, often at the same time. When in-store, they can be inspired by the creative surroundings, choose to look up other products on the StickerYou website, check out our Instagram or Twitter feed, or watch one of our videos about the products they are seeing in front of them. Store layout can encourage shoppers to discover new products, such as waterproof stickers, so they can buy immediately on their mobile devices, or remember and search online when they get home.
E-commerce comes home
Traditional retail has found itself upended by the rise of e-commerce, while online retail has found permanence in the modern business environment. The rise of e-commerce has seen many physical retail businesses struggle or go under, causing rents to drop in malls and other retail locations, while the growing number of e-commerce business have driven up the cost of online advertising rates and saturated the market to the point that native ads are losing impact. Long-time brick-and-mortar-based companies such as Wal-Mart have pivoted as the business landscape shifts, allowing brick-and-mortar stores to become the physical manifestation of growing online offerings, and to add more convenience to the online experience with in-store services such as pickups and returns. At the same time, online retailers are capitalizing on new opportunities to deepen consumer relationships with in-store experiences that emphasize making a creative and original impression rather than the more traditional emphasis on moving in-store product.
The ensuing gap has inspired e-commerce names such as Amazon, Shopify, Warby Parker, JD.com and Casper to shift to an omni-channel approach. This strategy engages a seamless network of social media, mobile apps and in-store experiences, allowing omni-channel marketing to boost online sales. After sharing a photo of a product on social media, for instance, a walk-in customer could check reviews of an in-store product while waiting for friends to weigh in on the decision on whether to buy it online before leaving the store.
Through the personal connection created through merging online and offline interactions, omnichannel marketing has the potential to enhance a company’s relationship with new and existing customers. Each brand should therefore assess if this new approach is right for their business.
Founder & president
As the founder of StickerYou, Andrew believes in the enormous power of customization. With over a decade of StickerYou success, he is one of Canada’s leading experts in e-commerce, customization, startups, marketing and the tech economy.
He is a graduate of Dalhousie University and holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business, York University. Witkin has previously served as VP North American Licensing for Nelvana/Corus Entertainment and Director of Marketing for MegaBrands/Mattel.