Online versus in-store. Why are companies competing with themselves?

5 years ago by Becky Dempsey

Customers want a connected journey from research to sale. If they can also feel valued for their efforts and rewarded for their choices – isn’t that the cherry on top?

So why are companies still treating online (web) sales as a separate cost centre to in-store (bricks and mortar) sales?

Consider 3 sales journeys, all mums, each buying a child’s school shoes.

Mum 1 goes online selects the shoes she thinks her child will like – puts 3 styles in the basket.  Free shipping over £50 is on offer, so why not! At the checkout she reads ‘we recommend you measure your child’s feet’.  She worries now that she might have the wrong size, so she decides to buy 3 sizes for each style – 9 pairs are now in the basket. She pays and the shoes are delivered to her home, free of charge within 3 to 4 days. 2 days later she goes to the nearest store and returns 8 pairs. Now the store has an extra 8 pairs of shoes to sell but online sales look good for the month.

Mum 2 follows the same online process and sees the message about measuring her child’s feet. She elects to go into the store and get a measurement done (she needs her child for this). She discusses the range available, tries on the styles and buys a pair of shoes directly from the store. Now the store has a sale and the online channel has an abandoned basket and keeps re-targetting the mum to buy school shoes.

Mum 3 follows a similar online search but she has also gone through a promotional site and wants to get her online discount. She walks into the store to get a measurement (again with her child) and selects a pair of shoes. She asks about the promotional discount and confused staff shake their heads. She decides she wants her online discount so leaves, orders her shoes, selects in-store delivery and waits for the shoes to be sent to the same place she left 3 – 4 days earlier.

2:1 to online. And so the game plays on.

But is this fragmented approach really necessary?

With clever tech, Mum 1 could have been encouraged to ‘try before you buy’ at the basket and offered a discount code to use in-store. The fulfilment and delivery costs of 9 pairs of shoes would have been way greater than the discount given.

Mum 2 similarly could have been given an option to use this code when prompted to visit the store. This same code when put through the till would have connected the online research to the offline transaction, captured her details and prompted online to stop sending re-targetted messages for shoes she had purchased but perhaps cleverly suggested other types of footwear in the size she had purchased in-store.

Mum 3, slightly more complex but if the service was designed to keep in-store staff and systems aware of the online promotion offers, they could have keyed in the sales and fulfilled any affiliate deal at the same time. Mum 3 would have walked out happy with her shoes and her discount and the amazing service.

I am not suggesting all sales need an incentive, but eliminating internal sales channels and thinking instead about connected customer journeys is surely a better option for success.

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