Thursday, 4 September 2014

Why You Shouldn’t Track Only Online Customers

                          Online shopping is the ‘in’ thing today. The online business is booming & giving impressive growth numbers. Naturally, companies have identified the utility of online business presence & have acted upon it by creating strategies that place paramount focus on this channel. Keeping all that in mind, online shopping is still tiny compared to the brick & mortar channel. Sure, online is winning the fight, but the battle is yet to be won. The numbers given in this article from WSJ proves as a sufficient illustration. And it’s going stay this way for a significant amount of time. Who knows, we may even see a new twist in the paradigm. My point being, marketers need to look beyond all the hoopla & avoid the catastrophic mistake of ignoring their offline customers. They’re still going to be your main source of revenue for years to come.

Brick & mortar retailers are increasingly becoming aware of the threat from E-commerce & are trying some tricks of their own. There are a few fundamental differences between online customers & offline customers. Online customers have many choices, all of them at the tip of their fingers. They face many distractions than a brick & mortar customer, too. While on web, a customer can be easily distracted by an impressive advertisement from another store. Moreover, switching costs for an online customer are next to nothing. He is likely to get the same information on every other online store & since the overall shopping experience is roughly identical everywhere, it becomes very difficult to retain an online customer.   On the other hand, offline brick & mortar customers are far less likely to switch outlets. This is because all the outlets of the brick & mortar variety are not that easily accessible to everybody. More importantly, it is very difficult for the online stores to compete with their brick & mortar counterparts in terms of providing diverse shopping experiences. The sheer range of shopping experiences (combination of tangible & intangible aspects) that a physical store is capable of providing gives it a vantage point for retaining customers.  
Hence, we can conclude that offline customers are more likely to remain loyal to an outlet. So, it makes a lot of sense in taking efforts to engage & retain the brick & mortar customers. Consider this on the backdrop of huge sales numbers in physical retail, and any reasonable marketer will direct at least some attention to his offline customers.
One more reason for our rejuvenated interest in tracking offline customers is simply because now you can do it. Technology is available that enables a marketer to track physical customers with very little expenses. I believe the specific industry is called ‘In-Store Analytics’. With the advances in communication technologies (especially wireless communications like Beacon & Wifi), it is now possible to track a really wide range of activities of the physical customers (You may visit our blogs – Tracking Customer Activities (A Process-based Approach) & The ‘Geeky Side’ (Technology) of Customer Engagement). The advantages of using In-Store Analytics & Intelligence solutions for tracking offline customers cannot be emphasized enough. The share of brick & mortar retail in the total retail sales is too large to stop innovating in that area.           

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