Friday, 10 February 2017

Clicks or bricks, now both

Some e-commerce companies are opening brick-and-mortar stores, even as retailers known for their branch networks are closing some physical locations and putting more emphasis on online retailing.

It's not just Amazon opening real doors to real stores in the United States. Yes, this is a good way to test products, observe shoppers as they browse and enhance brand associations. It's also a good way to identify emerging customer segments and emerging needs or preferences that represent potentially profitable business opportunities.

Online merchants don't have to be e-commerce giants to try brick-and-mortar retailing. Frank + Oak in Canada is also opening stores.

Frank + Oak's original business model was e-commerce clothing retailing. It's using artificial intelligence technology to offer product recommendations to online shoppers, much the way an expert salesperson would recommend products to in-store shoppers.

Now Frank + Oak has a growing chain of real stores in North America, featuring cafes and barbershops to provide in-person experiences that shoppers like. Just look at the store ambiance in this photo . . . it's designed as a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. The message seems to be: browse, relax and maybe buy. Frank + Oak co-founder Ethan Song comments:
There’s still a big space for physical shopping streets and malls. But I do believe the experience is going to be transformed.
One industry observer says that traditional brick-based stores might be able to use new technology to compete with the sophisticated algorithms of Amazon and other blockbuster retailers. He believes retailers can use technology to understand what shoppers are actually looking at in a brick-and-mortar store, and offer instant incentives to encourage browsing of certain merchandise. The technology could help the store change product locations based on shopper browsing and buying patterns, among other ideas.

In other words, just as Amazon and other e-commerce retailers monitor what pages attract shoppers and how long they remain on a page before clicking away, a store-based retailer can use technology to monitor what shoppers are doing and respond quickly, instead of waiting to count what is sold and when.