Offline Retailers and Online Expectations

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by: Ilya Vedrashko

Bill Gerba at Retail Media News blogged recently about a Datamonitor report that said “the next step in the battle to retain customers’ is to streamline the buying experience, bringing it more in line with internet shopping in terms of ease and speed of transaction.”

Bill writes, “Of course, where the Internet excels is in instances where the customer can benefit from a very large amount of information, the ability to compare multiple products at once (for both price and features), and see reviews from (presumably) like-minded shoppers. And in my experience this is where retailers have been putting more effort lately.”

Fascinating topic. Last year, I wrote a small post about it on FastCompany’s blogjam: “It’s interesting how many e-shops have been emulating physical store layout by using familiar naming and organizational metaphors — aisles, shelves, departments, shopping carts. This, of course, is done to match expectations of customers who are used to shop in the brick-and-mortar world. The flip side is also worth exploring: while doing something online users must be developing new expectations for the activity’s offline equivalent.”

We now have fairly cheap tools to create offline analogs for many online metrics — a simple traffic tracker, for example, costs around $400.

I love Blockbuster (which feels very lonely these days), I think their Total Access program is great (their store is one block from my house), but it pains to see how their online ordering system is not integrated with the offline experience. How much would it cost to put a simple computer with an internet connection (which they already have in stores) and let me look up movie trailers? $500 per store per year? How much money do they lose when someone walks into the store, can’t decide what movie to rent, and walks out (the paradox of choice)? If it’s more than the cost of that $500 computer, isn’t the ROI right there?

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