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Can bricks and mortar beat ecommerce?

Retailers were drawn to ASB’s waterfront building last night to answer a key question: can bricks and mortar beat ecommerce? To the relief of many at the future.retail event, the answer was yes – or it’s on its way to beating it.

Ramsys Retail CEO Stu Lees hosted the event.

Sherpa Systems senior account executive Ash Hudson and general manager of EdisTech Ray-Edward Paul also spoke.

ASB marketing manager Ben Thomsen was a further key speaker.

Thomsen said in his talk that if it’s assumed ecommerce is a customer choice, then the answer to the question headlining the event is no, as nobody can control what the customer does.

“The more interesting question is, how does ecommerce change the way we’re engaging and interacting with our customers?” Thomsen says.

He says the problem is companies are focusing on one part of their overall business, rather than all the parts working in sync with one another.

He calls this ‘building in silos’ – with mobile, websites, bricks and mortar and social media all compartmentalised, rather than working fluidly together.

This is what he believed happened when he visited an unnamed telco company’s website on his mobile and it wasn’t mobile optimised.

“They weren’t looking at the overall strategy,” Thomsen says.

He says the key is to make those compartments customer-centric by putting your customer at the heart of what you do.

“There’s so much choice and so many channels they can go through,” he says.

He says companies need to be everywhere at once, which is a challenging task.

It’s not a new or particularly sexy idea, he says, but data is the way to do it, and gathering data online can give retailers in store knowledge.

He referred to BNZ’s 2014 online sales data, which showed that online retail sales weren’t increasing that much.

Online research influencing bricks and mortar was a different story.

“I think the key metric is about 40 percent of offline bricks and mortar sales are being driven by online research,” he says.

This is why different channels need to work together to enhance the overall experience, he says.

He had three key points for retailers to take away:


  • Think about how your channels interact with each other – bear in mind they all support each other.
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  • Use data from as many sources as possible.
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  • Be the easiest business to deal with. Your customers will thank you for it.

The event also had in-store technology on display, featuring items like augmented reality equipment and beacons.

The eventual conclusion to the question posed at the event was that ecommerce can’t beat bricks and mortar.

Lees said for retailers to get ahead, it was all about bricks and mortar retailers adopting the strong aspects that gives ecommerce an advantage, like incredibly efficient ‘back ends’, exciting in-store technology and synchronisation across all channels.

Augmented reality and digital price tag reading technology by Luminary Promotions

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