Clicks with Bricks: The Fine Art of Reach

Touching your customer has changed. The traditional reach that brands enjoyed through generations of their retail shops managed to keep in step with the internet for ten years or so, until the tipping point of the tablet arrived.

2012’s fastest selling consumer good serves to demonstrate how mass technology adoption creates the unstoppable momentum that changes how people engage with brands to buy services.

Sure, smart phones have also been around for a while, but if you’ve suffered a Blackberry as long as I have, you’ll know the limitations. If a consumer has a rich PC-equivalent experience on the move, they engage as if they were settled at a desk and focused on shopping – almost as if they were browsing the shelves in Aisle 12.

Tablets are democratized to the many now and consumers of all ages are now embracing rich user environments that meet and exceed the sometimes dubious benefits of getting in a car, paying for parking and browsing only to find your size isn’t available.

If you’re an internet pure play, it’s about reach and filling the basket, while minimizing your distribution cost and passing on scale economies – Amazon wrote the book on this.

Getting the mix right

However, we are seeing a highly successful complementary mix of rich website and store integration – the click and collect if you will – that is powering the success of John Lewis and Argos at the expense of others like Morrisons or, as proved with their recent demise, Comet.

Successful retailers have been quick to grasp the two way nature of engagement between clicks and bricks. If you direct people to the store to collect, they rarely go there just to collect and will be distracted by all the usual point of sale for cross selling.

Equally, if you can capture those who browse in store and then give them a rich, best value environment to get the best deal on-line, then your brand is reinforced. But you have to stay price competitive – and this is where you have to get it absolutely right, or else you fall into the Jessops pit.

Reposition the High Street

Perhaps many high street stores that offer a pure bricks environment will ultimately fail unless they are a destination store that makes it hard to get the item on-line. The high street could well become a “leisure-centred” hub of a town – restaurants, coffee shops, hairdressers, gyms,  larger scale entertainment – that is impossible to replicate online or is diminished if it does so (like the theatre or cinema experience).

I don’t think the consumer wants to sit and home and never interact with a stranger ever again. People still want to interact with people, but for many items they are low-value and transactional in nature. Better to free up time for quality interactions and use “physical shopping” to enjoy where they live and seek the destination stores that fulfill their leisure and research interests.

Perhaps the retail ideas of the future will think about imaginative new experiences involving other senses rather than using the fingers, so that bricks and clicks co-exist with their own strengths in the future.

2 Responses

  1. The high street will eventually become the showroom for manufacturers interspersed with leisure facilities, as you say. More Steve Jobs vision than Mary Portis. The space for independents will only remain if rents are made more realistic for the small retailer.

    All this is great, but the true browsing shopping experience of looking for a gift for instance will be lost. Gone are the days of wandering about the high street not having a clue what to buy the other half for Christmas and happily stumbling across the perfect thing at the very last minute nestled in the dark corner of some weird curiosity shop you have never seen before. We lose the magic and men will have to think more at Christmas. Not necessarily progress.

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