Given technology’s prevalence today, it makes sense that commerce has moved so notably in this direction. People of all ages and backgrounds are online and are engaged, active and present. Location becomes a matter of little importance.
For vast numbers of players in the retail industry, this means that it is the online medium that becomes the priority. It’s here that acquisition can take place, retail sales can be made, and customer loyalty can be garnered.
With the wealth of exceptional ecommerce platforms and partners that are out there today, it’s easier than ever to create a digital experience for potential and existing customers they are sure to remember.
But human beings are social animals after all. Sometimes having an engaging physical experience with a brand can be just as, if not more, effective when it comes to building brand reputation.
Big companies, big ambitions
Something that some successful pureplay online retailers have done is move into the physical space from their original digital roots. This isn’t necessarily opening a shop in the traditional sense, but can cover a host of experiential factors that help a brand stand out from the crowd.
As an example, one of the biggest online retailers Amazon has broadened into the physical realm with Amazon Go.
The company has launched stores in US cities including Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco that allow users to enjoy a checkout-free shopping experience.
Using Just Walk Out technology, Amazon Go stores track what shoppers take and return to the shelves, collating it in a virtual cart.
Shoppers can just leave the physical store with their shopping and have the total cost charged to their Amazon account. It’s hassle-free, innovative and certainly engaging from a customer experience perspective.
Plenty of other brands have moved into the physical space to promote their goods and services after initial online success. This includes make-up specialists Glossier and fast-fashion brand Missguided.
In the same industry, one of the UK’s traditional big players is looking to reinvent their in-store experience. Boots is set to roll out a refreshed store format in 24 of its biggest beauty halls next month. These will comprise ‘trending zones’ and ‘discovery areas’, with shoppers able to experience Boots’ products in a whole new way.
The new Boots store at Covent Garden store is also rumoured to have its own YouTube Studio. This will allow for the creation of makeover videos and the like, which can then be posted to social media.
Retail chief executive Seb James is the man behind Boots’ new efforts in this space. He recently told Retail Week he even had plans to use customer data accumulated through the Boots loyalty scheme to create a ‘healthcare algorithm’. This would be used to assess wellness for individual customers based on their buying behaviours and will help provide relevant product suggestions.
This article from Insider Trends lists no fewer than 45 examples of companies making the shift to bricks and mortar.
Some of our favourites
At Williams Commerce, we work closely with a host of exciting brands to help them reach their online goals.
But many are also combining their online efforts with excellent physical experiences for customers, helping them to deliver a well-rounded omnichannel experience. Here’s a couple of case studies.
Bike Stop is a leading UK retailer of motorcycle apparel and protective gear, providing riders with a host of products from leading brands in the industry.
Bike Stop’s range is all available from its online ecommerce store. This has an easy to use navigation that allows people from around the world to find their perfect piece of gear.
The company offers free next day delivery on orders made before 3pm and in excess of £25. Its live chat assistant offers shoppers that extra level of guidance and support when using the site should they need it.
Beyond its online offering, Bike Stop operates the most amazing and surprising store in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. Known fondly as the ‘tardis’ and located on the town’s high street, the store features a staggering seven showrooms across two floors. Their consistently rated 5-star reviews provides some insight into the level of truly exception service the business goes to.
Bike Stop’s physical location taps beautifully into the demographic for which it caters. As well as showcasing the range of products it sells, the store also has a full café serving coffee, cakes and paninis for any riders that visit during ride-outs or more local customers, including non-bikers. The company also has strong partnerships with local motorcycle groups and associations.
This has helped Bike Stop become a physical hub for motorcyclists in the region, as well as a global motorcycle apparel retailer in the digital space.
Hancocks is a leading UK confectionery wholesaler, offering a superb selection of products at competitive wholesale prices.
Much of its business comes via its user-friendly and engaging website. This allows retailers to browse through the company’s wide selection of trade products and services, as well as the chance to learn about Hancocks’ rich history, top range and layout. There are also plus tips for retailers, along with up-to-date news via the Hancocks blog.
Customers can quickly create a trade account with Hancocks and buy in bulk from the largest range of confectionery in the UK. Their continual process of test and learn continues to see their online offering evolve to the benefit of their regular and new shoppers. This brings in ever more shopping convenience, choice and product innovation.
As well as their online store serving all manner of businesses across the UK, Hancocks operates 20 depots across England, Wales and Scotland. This is where retailers can engage with knowledgeable staff, find out more about the products available, sample Hancocks’ tasty sweets and ensure they have everything they need for their store.
Hancocks also offers a Click and Collect service, meaning shoppers can order online then head to their nearest depot and pick their purchase up free of charge.
By having a strong physical and digital presence, Hancocks is melding these two mediums to create a consistently engaging, flexible experience for their busy trade customers, who these days want convenience of shopping on the go via mobile. These customers also want choice from a service perspective – covering everything from the way they pay, to delivery options, to how they shop for and collect their product.
John Smedley is the company behind ‘the World’s Finest Knitwear’. Operating since 1784, John Smedley operates the oldest manufacturing factory in the world. It is from here the company creates beautiful fashion apparel for men and women.
The company operates a visually-impressive, easy to use fashion ecommerce website showcasing its full range of products. There is also a blog providing fashion advice and information on inspirational figures.
In keeping with its luxury reputation, John Smedley also operates three official stores in Central London. There is also a factory store at its historical headquarters and factory in Lea Mills, Derbyshire. These stores allow customers to see the high-quality products in the flesh before purchasing. They can immerse themselves in the sense of luxury and style that John Smedley prides itself upon.
By constantly striving for the very highest standards and letting quality permeate its entire operation, John Smedley has successfully forged a niche as a company that is synonymous with style across multiple channels.
Getting the right medium for you
Online retailers considering making the move into the physical space will know what a big decision this is. But by focusing on your USPs, creating a niche for yourself and continuing your positive digital experience into the physical realm, there are plenty of ways to boost brand awareness and loyalty.
Equally, if you’re a physical store looking to start an online shopping hub and embrace the world of ecommerce on a deeper level, Williams Commerce is perfectly placed to help you on your way. Our ecommerce agency can help your retail ecommerce or B2B ecommerce project get off the ground.
Whether you’re a major retailer or a small business, we have an exceptional digital marketing offering that can boost your online presence. This can ultimately help get more people interested and engaged with what you do. This includes PPC, SEO and social media services.
Take a look through our full range of projects and see some of our work.
Want to work with Williams Commerce? Get in touch