Ah, the ebbs and flow of commerce. In recent times there has been a noticeable migration from dedicated on-line business channels to the acquisition, commencement and implementation of traditional bricks and mortar premises.
At the forefront is Amazon, with its acquisition of the retail network Whole Foods, and its 450 + outlets in some 43 states of the United States of America. It is also studying the possible takeover of the Toys R Us retail network in the USA.
The physical presence complements the global, easy and immediate on-line access to over 500,000 differing products, services, applications, brands and models. Each outlet provides convenience for customers to collect, review and select desired and intended purchase items. It is an extension of the increasingly popular, click and collect service.
Moreover, the physical ambience is conducive to optimising the potential for impulse and spontaneous primary and complementary purchases, which are typically not capitalised in on-line transactions. Virtual reality does have its limitations.
Omni-channels, when functioning as horizontal cross-over opportunities and not as vertical silos, facilitate the capacity to increase up-sell and cross-sell revenue to the satisfaction of customers.
It is increasingly evident that an effective, efficient on-line presence is an imperative to open the door. Bricks and mortar stores enable prompt sales closures. Moreover, personal interactions, relationships and loyalty are natural extensions.
Individually and collectively, they simplify, expedite and encourage subsequent repeat sales and return visits. Search routines are typically narrowed, brand name recognition and preferences are heightened, and competitive advantage established, sustained and developed.
The complementary nature and benefits of on-line and bricks ‘n’ mortar presence is most pronounced in business-to-business dealings.
Time-poor, and often under-resourced executives value simplified and enhanced access to on-line information, when it is enriched and supported by personalised one-on-one interactions.
The latter context enables recognition and appreciation of the nuances which are innate to verbal communication. That promotes a sense of understanding and care – which differentiates companies, products, services, applications and individuals from the commoditisation that typifies contemporary on-line and digital commerce.
Increasingly, senior corporate executives and marketers are accepting, and utilising on-line channels as a tool to reach out, connect and engage with existing, prospective and past clients and customers.
For an overwhelming majority of the 2.4 million trading entities in Australia, it is not a stand-alone, viable business model.
Considerable time, money and resources have been dedicated to its development, introduction and implementation.
Often, that capacity is not matched with the capabilities (necessary skills) that are necessary to optimise performance. Sub-standard and variable performance levels typically result in the dissatisfaction of clients and customers, and to the financial pain of business owners, managers and shareholders.
The many lessons from the ill-fated Second Board of the Australian Stock Exchange from the 1980s seem to have been forgotten. In that instance, a key learning was that a single product does not a company make.
Newly listed public entities rapidly closed. So too did the Second Board. Likewise, a dedicated solus on-line presence can be, and often is, an expensive non-competitive business model. Old habits persist, and die hard. Put simply, many people simply like doing business with other people, in preference to algorithms, artificial intelligence and technology.
Customer service does cost. Labour costs in Australia can be high. However, a lack of customer service costs more. Business failure is one key measure.
And so it is, that a growing ground-swell of opinion is evolving in which on-line channels are recognised as being imperative initiatives to optimise efficiency, open-up communication, and to provide access to information.
Effectiveness is most readily attained, sustained and valued by consumers with investments in physical presences, people in particular.
Decisions to discontinue the operation of dual on-line and physical channels as “too expensive” may well prove to be a false economy.
A focus on one to the exclusion of the other will, in all probability, preclude a business from countless opportunities. Thus, sales, reviews and profits will be constrained.
Difficult and different times demand a fresh, if not a refreshed model … in the virtual and in the reality.
Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.
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