Five Companies that Can Teach Retailers How to Use the Internet
Digital retailing isn’t just one thing. Just like many different sales tactics work in-store, there’s no shortage of interesting and effective ways to implement digital retailing to drive massive success in any industry.
Here’s our list of five companies that are doing innovative things with digital retailing. As these innovators prove, the most effective retailing models are those that combine a digital ecosystem with a physical presence to create a seamless and industry-leading customer experience.
1. Best Buy
A decade ago, it seemed like Best Buy was following Blockbuster’s unceremonious decent into obsolescence. But where the video rental chain’s leadership failed, the electronics retailer triumphed. Rather than relying on their retail locations as "stores" in the traditional sense, Best Buy adopted a “showroom” model wherein their stores became the physical front to a completely revamped e-commerce infrastructure.
After launching this new business model in 2012, Best Buy’s online sales had doubled by 2018. Their physical stores are tactile and interpersonal hubs that allow customers to experience products and connect with expert representatives, but the digital retailing machine silently powers their operation and keeps Best Buy competitive with Amazon and Walmart.
The Takeaway: Leverage the strengths of different channels. Build a robust online shopping experience that leans on your storefront for the tactile and interpersonal aspects.
Much like Best Buy, Apple uses their Apple Store model to create a showroom experience that places the emphasis on products, giving customers the hands-on experience they crave after having spent hours exploring, configuring, and pricing the newest devices on the Apple website. Where Apple really excels, though, is in their ability to create a powerful mystique that puts their Geniuses at the centre of the customer experience.
By positioning their products as a collection of mysterious aluminum and glass boxes full of high-tech magic, Apple builds in their consumers a reliance on the Apple Geniuses for support and comprehension. Basically: you don’t really understand the product, but the helpful folks at the Apple Store are happy to offer guidance and support. You have no choice but to rely on them, and that's just how you like it.
The Takeaway: A strong digital retailing platform lets your staff transform from pushy salespeople into trustworthy experts who seem a little bit magical.
While Apple and Best Buy use powerful digital retailing platforms to augment their existing brick-and-mortar stores, INDOCHINO takes the inverse approach. The made-to-measure suit company began online with a simple, step-by-step process to order a tailored suit directly to your doorstep. But now, fashionistas have the option of visiting an INDOCHINO showroom to experience the fabrics in-person while consulting with an expert on sizing, fit, and style.
INDOCHINO cleverly capitalizes on digital retailing to simplify the in-store experience. The showroom is just that – a showroom. They have no inventory for purchase, which means none of the typical retail overhead. They exist solely to show off their materials and provide in-person measurements and advice. The rest of the sale still happens online, and the suit is tailored and shipped from offsite. It’s an innovative and simple way to sell a complex product.
The Takeaway: Using a single, streamlined digital platform for online and in-store sales makes your buying process simpler and more cost effective, while improving the customer experience.
4. Uber Eats
Uber Eats (and Foodora, DoorDash, SkipTheDishes, etc.) gives its customers a simpler, easier way to patronize their favourite restaurants. Busy foodies and bored fast food junkies alike can customize, place, and pay for their meal through an app on their smartphones. The only time users need to get off their couches is when the courier finally arrives with food in hand.
But this doesn't just help customers: the transparency granted by food delivery apps gives visibility to restaurants that were formerly too small or too far afield to grab the customer’s attention. It also relieves the strain on servers, who don’t even have to answer the phone to fulfill an order. These apps send restaurants more business while simultaneously reducing the burden on frontline staff.
The Takeaway: An intuitive digital channel makes you more visible and easier to buy from — just make sure the digital to physical transition is easy to navigate.
And of course, there’s Amazon, the company who is practically synonymous with “e-commerce” and “digital retailing.” The $1 trillion valuation of the retail giant is evidence that people prefer a seamless digital shopping experience. Your cart, shopping preferences, and order history all follow you from device to device, while one-click purchasing gives hurried customers the option to buy an item in less than a second.
But Amazon has done the reverse of traditional retailing companies. Unlike Best Buy, who took a physical shopping experience online, Amazon has taken a digital-only retail model and added brick-and-mortar stores. As successful as the Amazon digital retail model has been, they have recognized that the future isn’t exclusively digital. It’s digital and physical working seamlessly together. It’s omni-channel.
The Takeaway: Digital retailing is the strongest driver of sales, but it's even better when integrated with a brick-and-mortar store.
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