Online shopping (2)

Just recently, I nearly purchased something online, explains business expert Carl Reader. Nothing particularly high-ticket – a £200 product. However, despite being able to order it online, we decided to pick it up in the same company’s retail store instead. We reached the shop, only to find that the product was actually £50 more in store. Even worse, they wouldn’t price match to their own online cost.

There are (at least) two different arguments here.

Perhaps in today’s day and age, there’s an argument to say that the retailer is the same entity, and therefore should charge the same whether they’re selling via “bricks or clicks” (in store or on the internet).

However there’s also the argument to say the online/offline prices should not necessarily be the same. Perhaps it’s right that in store products should be priced at a higher premium than an online order. After all, you benefit from the convenience and immediacy of obtaining it from a shop, plus of course the retailer must pay for the additional overheads of running a retail premises.

So where do I sit on this?

It’s actually my belief that many businesses have not yet taken advantage of the integration between bricks and clicks. One business that has done this really well is Apple, and fortunately there are other businesses moving towards it too.

However, many businesses still see online and offline as two very different beasts, and I think there’s an interesting business lesson here to consider.

First of all, we must think about where our businesses are today. Then we have to think – hard - about where we’re going to be tomorrow and going forwards in our multi-faceted, digital online/offline world.

We need to remember that whatever we do online or offline are two parts of the same solution or service that we’re offering. If we’re got an online deliverable and an offline deliverable, we need to justify why there’s any difference in either service or price in both of those.

Let’s take retail as an example. My vision of where retail is going is a movement towards a showrooming concept. I believe the purpose of retail outlets will be to demonstrate the tangible product, so that people can look, touch, feel and experience it. However, the owner of that showroom most likely won’t care where you purchase their product from, because they make their profit from the sale of the product. So I see that the actual producers – those who manufacture or design it – will be the ones who own the showrooms.

The delivery of the product won’t be held by holding stock in very expensive retail premises. In fact, those premises will be designed to maximise the customer satisfaction and the delivery potential from those outlets. Maybe it will be the drones that deliver. It might be iPads where you make an order in store. Maybe it’ll be an Argos-style system where you select it and it’s handed over to you in store. Who knows what logistics will be used?

However, I strongly believe that the point of committing to the purchase and the point of receiving the item will be two separate transactions. These might well happen within the same half an hour, but it’ll be two separate items that happen in a coordinated way from one business.

That’s just one hypothesis where I potentially see things going in the business world.

The business lesson here for you to consider in your own business is: how can you join the dots? Maybe you’re currently doing something online which is very different to what you’re doing offline. Let’s say you’ve got a commodity product online and a higher value service offline, as many of us have – how can you join those together? How can you cross-pollinate both sides of your business? How can you make sure that your values and the way that you do things are consistent across both? Thinking through questions like this can help you ensure that both your online and your offline service are joined up and consistent. Just a few thinking points about how you can perhaps take one plus one, and maybe make more than two.

Carl Reader is the author of The Start Up Coach, co-owner of dennisandturnbull.com