Today’s retail landscape: Offline vs online or offline harnessing online?

19th July 2018

US based department store chain Nordstrom appears to have struck a balance in the offline vs online retailing battle.  The retail giant has recently revealed that it’s ‘Nordstrom Local’ concept is to be rolled out in additional locations, operating a service-hub for customers. The stores include hairdressers, tailors etcetera but are ultimately a ‘dressed-up’ click and collect location, with a far reduced square footage holding no-inventory. Clever.

A shift in thinking requires looking at things in a truly big picture way, rather than being channel centric and short-term sales focused. For the retail landscape to grow and evolve, it’s about not letting the WSSI dictate next season’s plan, but strategic thinking doing so. Surely not adopting this way of thinking is like asking a classic marketer to forget about a 360 degree brand plan and neglecting all market penetration techniques bar one.

So consider and debate how online can drive offline, but consider it in the sense of value-add for the customer; this is the key to really driving change and being a synonymous part of a customer’s life.

It often seems that online retailers are the first to utilise technology and add value to the lives of consumers, as demonstrated by Amazon US and Prime Wardrobe – a ‘try before you buy’ shopping subscription service that plays to heightened consumer demands.

The concept offers two key value-adds:

  1. Ease – there is no need to pay upfront, therefore customers can try multiple sizes and multiple styles without hassle.
  2. Personalisation – Amazon presents the shopper with complete outfit ideas to actively encourage further ‘trying’ and in turn buying.

Traditional retailers could apply this type of subscription model just as easily, and many already have via financiers such as Klarna. The key is utilising this technology to integrate offline; leveraging the traditional assets of physical stores with online. This brings us back to the service-hub environment that Nordstrom Local has created; in-store experience is no longer about sensory as discussed some five years ago, it’s about building an offer that is integral and truly essential to a customer’s way of life.

Whist there are retailers paving the way in challenging the offline vs online battle, it is up to the industry as a whole to pause, assess and adapt to the lives of the modern shopper. A recent survey conducted by the Odgers Berndtson Group highlighted that most Chief Executives are concerned that only half of their senior leaders have the right mind-set or experience to truly stay ahead of the game in a disruptive marketplace.

Berwick Partners specialises in appointing senior leadership talent that is capable of making decisions that stay ahead of and/or leverage disruptive change. This skill will be essential to the retail industry if it is to continue moving forward at the same pace as its customers.

Kathryn Gill specialises in appointing senior leadership positions in the retail sector.

Categories: Retail