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DO PURE-PLAY ONLINE RETAILERS NEED TO GO OFFLINE?

With Google opening a store at Currys PC World, Zalando setting up pop-up stores and Missguided unveiling a concession range to be sold in Selfridges, the question ‘do pure-play online retailers need to develop a bricks-and-mortar presence’, is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Whether these stores are to be used as a returns hub, a concession outlet, or a direct point-of-contact with customers, there are a number of cost-effective opportunities that digital players can benefit from by investing in an offline retail space.

Taking into account that overall customer satisfaction with returns has dropped since 2014, while the cost of returns continues to represents a huge burden on retailers’ profitability, department stores could be the ideal solution for online merchants trying to tackle returns expenses. Although certain complications, such as system integration and fulfillment processes, need to be taken into consideration, using a physical retail space as a returns hub, or a pick-up/drop-off location, is definitely an option worth exploring.

Running a physical shop or a concession range also provides online players with a platform to increase their brand awareness and gain repeat visitors.

So, whether retailers are using offline stores as a promotional tool, as a place for customers to try out products and get to know the brand or as an additional retail channel, if executed effectively, developing an offline presence can perfectly complement a retailer’s online strategy and boost overall engagement.

The boundaries between online and offline retail are becoming blurred, and it is now more important than ever to have an integrated strategy towards customer acquisition. Retailers must tee up the strengths of online retail with the strengths of offline retail, to deliver the best possible user journey in today’s multi-channel world.

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