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Connecting Websites With Bricks and Mortar

31 March 2010 - 10:52 by Simon Crisp

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Many retailers sell items in bricks and mortar stores, whilst also selling products through online stores for those consumers preferring to do their safe shopping online. In many cases, these two channels exist side-by-side, but are also rather distinct from one another. It may be time for companies and brands to more fully understand how consumers view these two channels as one package.

A new study, produced by Amazon's former head of R&D, David Selinger who is currently CEO of eCommerce personalisation outfit RichRelevance, together with Paco Underhill, author of the book Why We Buy, has a few insights for multichannel retailers.

Among the statistics uncovered by the research, which was conducted at the physical stores of major brands such as the Apple Store, Macy's, The Gap and Best Buy, was that 75% of people surveyed said that visiting a brand's website was helpful to them in finally making purchases in-store.

It seems as though retailers' websites are not just for making online purchases: they are used as part of a wider overall shopping experience in conjunction with bricks and mortar stores, further evidenced by the fact that 26% of those asked actually continue safe shopping online using that retailer's website after they have left the store. The number of consumers who shop around both online and in physical stores was high, too, with 88% of those surveyed stating that they had shopped at the retailer's website, whilst 85% compared prices online.

The study's authors encourage retailers to examine how well-connected their physical and online stores are, emphasising that consumers often think of stores as part of one unified brand and not distinct 'channels' as such. Hence price and inventory disparities between online and physical stores may prove problematic. The two channels should thus be designed to compliment and reinforce each other in delivering a unified customer experience.