It’s no longer online shopping versus offline shopping. Ditch the silo and work on ways to bring online and offline marketing together to give digital and brick-and-mortar customers seamless ways to shop and grow your business at the same time.
Online-to-offline commerce, or O2O, is a marketing strategy used to draw online customers into shops. With retail stores struggling all over the world (in the US alone thousands of shops have recently closed), O2O is emerging as one way to breathe new life into physical stores.
O2O industry growth
Amazon, Uber, Walmart - from the major players to little-known start-ups, brands are embracing online to offline as they start to recognize the real benefits this strategy can bring.
Online-to-offline marketing can take different forms:
- Previously online-only brands are buying-up physical retailers - see Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of organic food retailer Whole Foods.
- Retailers are improving their activity to help online customers locate, place orders and buy from physical stores. That includes tools like store locator platforms, online booking systems and click-and-collect services.
- Retailers are bringing online technology into their stores. Examples include virtual reality headsets which allow customers to experience products before they buy.
Online-to-offline marketing is not just a trend confined to major retail markets like the US - it’s also happening right across the world. More and more brands are bringing online and offline channels together to offer customers a flexible service - one that allows them to shop how and when they want. But as well as offering customer convenience, how does O2O benefit the brands themselves?
Benefits of an online and offline approach
It can help you grow
Financially, operating an online-only business is cheaper than combining a digital and physical presence. However, if you’re prepared to make the investment, going O2O can really help you grow. What’s more, as you become more established, the number of complementary opportunities to merge these two worlds will continue to rise.
By focusing your efforts solely on online or offline, you are missing out on a huge number of potential customers. Research shows that customers love to research online before buying in-store. Making sure these opportunities aren’t missed by offering online and offline assets can really broaden your reach and allow customers to shop in their preferred way, whether that’s online, offline or both.
Perhaps one thing customers look for above all else is familiarity. As creatures of habit, we love consistency, whether that’s using the same method of payment or going into stores at similar times. O2O helps improve customer retention because it gives them a familiar shopping experience every time, whether that’s using a click-and-collect service or receiving vouchers or rewards online.
Is the smartphone king? These days it probably is, particularly when it comes to shopping. In fact, it was back in 2014 that the number of people shopping on mobiles overtook desktop computers for the first time. By having a visible online presence, built for mobile and designed to convert digital customers into physical ones, you will be aiming yourself directly at the lucrative smartphone market.
Once distant strangers, the worlds of online and offline retail are now being brought together by this smart, forward-thinking marketing strategy to give customers a seamless shopping experience. Is it time for you went O2O?
Are you interested in learning more about online-to-offline commerce?