The holiday season is almost upon us. In fact, the other day I went to the IKEA store to pick up some items and found the large area before the cash registers -- their version of the retail end-cap -- filled with cheery and fun-looking Christmas decorations.
Retailers with stores and without a digital strategy may be getting coal in their stocking come January.
Pure eCommerce companies will need to have a very specific and compelling value proposition to offer, including a stellar experience at every touch point. Because when it comes to providing a good experience, the line between digital only and digital plus in store has blurred significantly.
Back to the future
The winner is situational, as the Amazon vs. brick-and-mortar companies is demonstrating.
Immediacy is worth paying for, and Amazon now delivers it to a locker in a local grocery or drugstore potentially near you. It's so simple and convenient that the only friction may be the program has not been rolled out in your area.
A move that is forcing retailers to work even harder to counter the in store price check comparisons using the Price Check app Amazon rolled out last year. Which was coupled with an additional 5 percent discount up to $5 on certain items just in time for Christmas.
Amazon’s Price Check app works in four ways -- scan a barcode, snap a picture, say the product name, or type your search. For example, take a picture, and Price Check instantly matches it to an item in Amazon’s inventory.
Walmart, Best Buy, and Target are fighting back.
Living up to its cheap-and-chic brand strategy, Target is once again partnering with a number of designers to offer exclusive collections at its stores.
This time, the partner is luxury retailer Neiman Marcus. Neiman is looking for its silver lining. Target maintains its in store exclusivity while it keeps an eye on its real competitor in the fashion category -- H&M.
Mix and match
Shoppers do mix and match beyond price points and digital/in store.
The inherent desire to hunt together with friends for deals is also driving the blurring of digital media and social technologies -- first screen, second screen, or different phase and context for the transaction?
In the eyes of beauty brand Sephora, the in store/digital line looks more and more like a loop with the customer at the center. Plenty of social touch points and digital conversion opportunities are on the Web site and mobile experiences, as well as in social networks, through personalized emails.
A strong customer loyalty program delivered in store or through email encourages the mix and match approach by offering sampling of its product lines. In turn, conversion data feeds the company's ability to manage its supply chain intelligently.
The only blemish from my direct experience with the brand so far has been the frequency of emails -- roughly one every three days. It may force me to unsubscribe altogether, and that would be a shame.
In fact, given the right incentives and with varying degrees of transparency, shoppers have become somewhat accustomed to trading their digital footprint (and resulting data) in digital and social networks in exchange for additional access and discounts.
While we're still addressing the moving line between trust and privacy and its effect on promises, location-based applications have been trying to close the gap between digital and in store. Location analytics company Placed has just launched Placed Panels, an app that looks to bridge digital and in store.
Here's how it works, Greg Sterling says:
Merchants gain insight into where their customers go and whether they actually visit the merchant’s locations, what competitive businesses are visited and what other real-world brand or merchant affinities their customers have have.
Placed Panels requires a triple opt-in and its customer analytics reports are currently free. It basically treats the mall as your screen, complete with heat map of where the shopper who opted-in is going. Which may prompt us to redesign the mall experience based upon how people are using the space.
Digital, social, online, in store -- we're in for an interesting holiday season.
PS: this marks post number 2,000 at Conversation Agent.
Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a speaking engagement click here.