The post-pandemic retail landscape has seen retailers accelerate their digital efforts in a bid to become truly omnichannel – and protect against a repeat of the disruptions of 2020. Conversely (and perhaps more interestingly), we also a better idea of ​​the place of bricks and mortar in the strategies of the first digital players.

Amazon may have recently announced plans to close 68 high street stores, including all of its bookstores, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s falling back on e-commerce. This is a tactical withdrawal from certain segments – brick-and-mortar stores are still high on Amazon’s long-term plans.

Act now to beat Amazon

While Amazon won’t be disrupting Waterstones on UK high streets, the company has confirmed that it is pursuing ambitions to disrupt other offline categories including groceries, convenience and fashion. Physical touchpoints remain a key priority as they bring the digital giant one step closer to perfecting the formula for joining online and offline customer journeys.

Amazon also has what it takes to win on the high street, at least in the long run; it is positioned to evolve rapidly because it makes agility, flexibility and data its key skills. It was the pragmatic focus on data that most likely put an end to Amazon bookstores. If something doesn’t work, for some reason – think of the ill-fated Fire phone – the company will reduce its losses. Then almost immediately, it will regroup, adapt and set off again.

Over time, Amazon will master its online-to-offline journey. The irony is that it’s actually the physical measurement that’s the most difficult (and time-consuming) to master. This is a significant advantage for incumbents over the digital competition, especially if they already have store card and email receipt strategies in place. If big brands act now, they still have a chance to get ahead of Amazon by mastering the fully integrated customer journey. Here’s how:

Eliminate siled thinking

Where Amazon stands out is in its structure around data – its superpower is a 360-degree view of the customer. This industry-leading recommendation engine simply couldn’t exist in a siled company that doesn’t share data.

While this level of personalization may be a (much) longer-term goal, how data is shared internally is a moot point and restructuring businesses around data can be both a practical and a political challenge. As such, the first big step for many traditional retailers is simply changing the way they think about measuring and rewarding success. A woolly shared ethic will not suffice. Instead, departmental and (to some extent) store KPIs need to be reconfigured to reflect company-wide success – and getting that work done depends on internal transparency and the publication of internal compartmentalized data.

Each team needs to understand the specific impact they have on the broader customer journey. Even if their contribution cannot be directly attributed to the fact that the customer clicked “buy now”, they should be fully aware of how their contribution to the customer’s decision-making process leads to a purchase. The key to this is taking a more holistic approach to reporting, which makes it easier to zoom out and focus on the big picture.

For example, if an organization implements a consolidated media plan that everyone has access to, teams can identify overlapping goals and help each other achieve common goals.

The PR department, for example, could share helpful content with the digital team to help them improve SEO and increase inbound traffic, adding value to funnel awareness and consideration levels. of purchase. In turn, the digital team could reciprocate by helping PR secure online coverage and backlinks that will raise the profile of ads, which will further build awareness.

Virtuous circles drive growth, while interdepartmental rivalries slow it down.

Pay more attention to intention

Active listening is essential. Feedback gathered from online reviews and sentiment can tell businesses what corrective actions they need to focus on – improving the returns process or the customer experience, for example. But looking further up the sales funnel can be even more valuable.

Building a detailed customer profile by collecting and analyzing data across digital and physical touchpoints can pay huge dividends. The less siled the approach, the more data there is to work with of course.

The more context you have around the user’s buying motivations, the better you’ll be able to engage the customer, both in the sales funnel itself and post-sales.

For example, a search for running shoes on a site might indicate that the person is most likely interested in exercising. If this hypothesis is consistent with additional data contained in the profile of this customer; their age, gender, location, historical purchases, etc., it then becomes clearer what kind of additional information could really be useful to them.

After-sales engagement could be emails offering details of local running clubs and routes, training and nutrition plans – perhaps even to promote the benefit of physical presence in offering invitations to workshops at their local store. This added value increases the likelihood of customer retention – and as we know, it’s much more profitable to retain audiences than to acquire them. A fair value exchange keeps the customer connected to communications and therefore more likely to buy from you again.

Enable brand-to-local campaigns

Since most traditional retail businesses still operate in silos, brand and performance campaigns have typically been driven by different teams and usually in isolation. However, the lack of coherent thinking is most apparent in-store, where a carefully curated set of brand messages can quickly be reduced to empty slogans.

Having both online and offline properties should, in theory, double the sales potential, especially if the retailer is using a brand-to-local strategy to drive footfall to particular locations. However, the success of this approach relies on the consistency of the customer experience. As such, successful brand-to-local campaigns mean ensuring company-wide values ​​and messaging are understood and adhered to across all channels, whether online or offline, and this means in all stores.

This of course becomes more difficult as an organization grows – and especially for international companies working in multiple regions. Getting it right is a fast track to turning customers into brand advocates, which Apple has been able to cultivate through its global network of in-store “geniuses”.

By comparison, while Amazon’s decision to minimize human contact in its own outlets as much as possible does reduce risk to some extent, it’s not going to deliver the heights of brand love reserved for Apple.

Joining the customer journey across online and offline channels has been a holy grail for retailers. Those who have made the transition are rare, but making it work could be the differentiator big brands need in the face of digital competition.

People buy online because it’s convenient, at least up to a point and depending on the category. There was clear attendance peaks after each lockdown, and especially for segments like fashion where people were able to try on clothes again without having to go through the hassle of ordering two sizes and returning the one that didn’t fit.

Providing customers with a brand experience that combines the best of both worlds is key to staying on the high street. Many incumbents are already holding the data offline to challenge Amazon’s ambitions and potentially do it at scale much faster. It’s an opportunity to be seized, but the longer they delay, the smaller the window of success becomes.