It wasn’t long ago that I had to rush to the market every time I wanted to buy something for myself. There was always a risk of the shop being closed or the item not being available or being forced to settle with the wrong variety.
But that’s now a thing of the past because now we have these things called e-commerce websites. These wondrous saviors of mine!
They have everything and beyond listed neatly on their platform. Buying and paying are super convenient, and so is the delivery. I don’t need to move a lot of muscles to get whatever I want to be delivered to my home.
As a pretty obvious result, this rapid acceptance of the online eCommerce model hurt traditional brick and mortar stores. Many local stores near me shut down and others complained of their profits dipping substantially. This was accompanied by the shift of almost all services to the online sphere, from the hotel to cab booking to even a spectacles shop.
But even after all of this innovation and the so-called revolution, brands just cannot seem to let go of the offline space. Even though their entire product is online, a major chunk of their marketing and now even sales is offline.
OYO Rooms hands out flyers with discount codes to attract customers, Lenskart sets up stalls in flea bazaars and in malls, it even has proper brick and mortar stores with a small percent of their catalog in it, same with FabAlley.
Even Google had a stall at the Jaipur Literature Festival to promote Internet Saathi and Google Art and Culture.
So, why are these online behemoths so keen on advertising in the offline space.
Why does Uber need to have kiosks outside malls or why does Pepperfry need to expand offline, why are they going back to traditional formats for keeping revenues going even though their entire pitching model was based on the ONLINE mode? Weren’t they floated to exactly beat the brick and mortar model in the first place?
Well, the answer is that even though online retail is a lot more convenient than offline, people still trust offline retail more. Browsers generally have a very short attention span. It is not uncommon to have 10-15 tabs open simultaneously. The attention is divided among all of these and not focused on anyone. Unless there is a very magnetic reason to go for a single website, people generally dabble.
An offline space, however, offers a singular experience, one that is focused on single brand only. Further, an offline space is way more engaging and personalized than an online one simply because of the human factor. A skilled salesman can convince you better than an algorithm any day. Plus the zillion questions we have as customers are handled instantaneously.
Also, a brick and mortar store provides credence to old-fashioned notions of stability and establishment that go hand in hand with a physical building. This further build confidence in the brand as the consumer has something in front of his/her eyes to actually see and believe in, rather than watch load and reload on a screen, especially in times of start up bursts where more ventures are shutting down than sustaining.
As a result, a lot of brands have adopted the hybrid online/offline model. For example, Zara has an app from which you can order any product, mostly at a significant discount as compared to the store price, and then have it delivered to your home or to a nearby store from where you can pick it up.
Another example is RTR, a fashion website/store which according to Veronika Sonsev from Forbes:
“RTR personalizes its customer experience in multiple ways. Its “personalized closet profiles” store customers’ designer preferences, favorite styles, and upcoming event dates. The system collects data captured in-store, online and in-app and makes the customer profiles available to store associates. When customers walk into an RTR store, they check-in via kiosks, after which store associates can quickly tailor their experiences.”
This hybrid model provides retailers with the best of both worlds. An online front face with all the flexibility and ease of operations that come with it and the offline subsidiary with the customer relations, trust and engagement benefits it has.
But from all this, one thing remains clear. People prefer offline advertising over online and even though they have embraced the shift towards online retail, they still have a soft spot for offline, and traditional formats of business will never cease to exist as they have stood the test of time.
Back when it was good ol' Madras, it was known primarily as a port city and one of...
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