Merging the online and offline world

Many high street stores are still suffering from the effects of the recession and won’t be greatly comforted that economic growth has risen by a paltry 0.1% in the last three months of 2009, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Jo Roberts

Shockingly many high street stores are losing sales opportunities not just from the economic climate, but from bad or non-existent multichannel strategies.

By not linking the in-store and online experience, 60% of retailers are risking losing their customers to one of their rivals according to research carried out by GSI. The recession is driving many customers to log-on and Google the brand they want to buy if they can’t immediately purchase it in stores to find the best deals.

Many bricks-and-mortar stores are simply encouraging this behaviour by having no link to the online world. Others have half-hearted attempts at websites that serve no real purpose to customers.

However, there’s no need for retailers to admit defeat to the online world. Those high-street stores that have noticed this customer behaviour and have taken real action are seeing great results.

John Lewis is taking steps to link the in-store and online brand even further than before. It is testing new ways of making sure the customer can order online in its own stores if something is unavailable, making sure shop staff are on hand to help if someone gets stuck.

Argos’ reserve-and-collect service accounted for £1 in every £4 of the retailer’s sales during the latest trading period, showing that with a bit of good thinking, high-street stores need not lose customers to price comparison sites.

This all sounds like common sense to me, but lots of high street stores are simply not bothering to merge the online and offline world. If stores don’t get their multichannel strategies in order there’s a risk that customers will stop visiting the high-street at all.

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