Clicks and Mortar: How technology saved retail

By Clem Cartwright

How can brands optimise their in-store and digital capabilities to create a fully integrated shopping experience? 

The retail landscape is changing with brands operating on, not one, but multiple touch points. Whether online, mobile, or in-store, consumers are being encouraged to participate in different channels sequentially and simultaneously along the path to purchase. Say, a consumer buys an iPad online but returns it in-store because it’s faulty; or browsing shoes online, the same consumer discovers that they are being sold on the high street for a much better deal and goes to seek them there. Shopping used to start and finish in the store or on a website but now there are no limitations. This is the beginning of non-linear retailing in an omnichannel world. 

Bricks and Clicks

Online shopping has grown significantly in recent years offering the luxuries of home delivery services, automated repurchase and purchase on-the-go. However, instead of posing a threat to the traditional bricks-and-mortar retail model as previously feared, technology has become a driver. There are certain benefits of in-store that simply cannot be replicated online: the physical examination of a product, the immediacy of item ownership, the opportunity to try-before-you-buy, zero delivery fees and importantly, the sociability; the online shopping experience is unable to match the social and human shopping experience. It is these factors that saved traditional retail from redundancy and now we are seeing brands optimise both their online and offline channels to create a fully integrated shopping experience.

The retail experience is no longer about simply selling product; it is about broadening channels and creating an integrated and personalised customer experience. The ubiquitous consumer wants to move easily across channels, and have as many product options at their fingertips as possible. Omnichannel shopping is about uniting physical and digital worlds into a complete retail eco-system. This may seem like old news for Tesco who, in 2011, combined their in-store and digital capabilities to open the world’s first virtual store in Seoul. The store displayed more than 500 of their most popular products with barcodes which customers could then scan using the Homeplus app on their smartphones.

From Shops to Showrooms

More recently, we have seen the world’s largest online retailer open its first physical store. But, why? Amazon is already an established player in the global e-commerce market with a market cap of $282 billion. One plausible theory is that it marks the first of a collection of showrooms in the brand’s future vision to exhibit their products in a physical environment. It also shows that having an omnichannel offer is not just about getting digital right. Etail may be where the growth is, but retail brands need a human face. As consumers increasingly desire retail experiences over linear purchase transactions, we are seeing more and more high street shops function as showrooms, whereby the vast proportion of sales are made through online and mobile channels. MADE is a prime example of this providing in-store iPads for consumers to digitally interact with physical products. Their shopping customers are able to scan visual NFC tags, created by their technology partner Cloudtags. When it comes to recreating the online experience in-store, brands will benefit from forming a collaborative partnership with digital innovators. Through the integration of online and offline shopping, brands are able to make the destination more enjoyable, convenient and memorable.

The Need for Speed

Consumers want fast solutions and excellent service. Using technology as the enabler, brands with a multichannel strategy can curate customised content and offers based on customer data analytics. Starbucks is a great example of a brand who has built a strong relationship with its consumers both online and offline. With ten million customers who are using its mobile app to pay for orders, it should come as no surprise that Starbucks should bring its online and offline commerce together to launch its first express format store in New York. Located strategically on a busy commuter path, the new store aims to get people in and out as quickly as possible, gaining an edge on the Wall Street competition. This marks a great example of how technology can aid brands to better understand and serve the needs of their customers.


Are you inspired by the possibilities of omnichannel? We would love to hear from you.



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