Convenience and experience
One of the appeals of the online store is its functional convenience. You can browse the store in seconds and effect your transaction in a similar amount of time. For a consumer this makes it a very efficient experience. However, with efficiency comes some trade-offs for the retailer. Firstly, purchases that are arrived at in this manner tend to be priced at a well-researched level. Secondly, a very directed search doesn’t leave a lot of space for serendipitous / unexpected purchases and upselling, which is often where the higher margins are earned. This is an area where a well laid out store still holds a competitive advantage. Unlike in cyber space people need to move around stores, bumping into products that might not match the algorithm. However, the online environment is evolving. This week fashion blog Man Repeller has launched its own e-commerce site using a gamified web interface. Rather than being an efficient sales journey, the site deliberately meanders through interactive / sensory experiences that allow customers to discover products rather than move straight to an intended purchase. Take a look here. As both the physical and digital worlds start to compete on experience, the bar is lifted for the consumer, and the difference between the two channels starts to fade. The opposite end of this telescope is the high street retailers using technology to improve the efficiency of the in-store experience. This includes navigation apps such as Target’s floorplan-based app that guides you towards sales items, and the now ubiquitous in store iPad which allows you to browse the full stock range.