4 ‘Offline’ Practices Businesses Have Successfully Adapted to the Web
Before you read on, it’s important to note that none of the practices outlined below are unique to online companies.
12:30 02 October 2019
More and more traditionally-offline businesses already have, or are in the process of, establishing an online presence, bringing their successful business models to the Web.
At the same time, the growth of the Internet has brought to the world a mass of online-only companies who face unique challenges that their offline counterparts don't. That said, the online model of doing business continues to grow and evolve, overcomING limitations that are otherwise not an obstacle when doing business offline. Here are a few examples.
One of the undoubted advantages that offline businesses have - and possibly the most important one - is the personal connection to customers. Showing care for the client’s needs is a sign of respect and attention and a sure way to earn repeat business and develop a positive brand reputation.
It’s true, however, that interacting with customers in a successful way - that is, being helpful without annoying them out of the establishment - is an art and science and everything in between. Nevertheless, it is precisely this personal connection that online businesses are missing…rather, were, missing.
To say that online communications have successfully replaced face-to-face interaction would be utterly wrong. But it’s also important to recognise how far some online businesses have come in making their customers feel like they genuinely matter to the business.
Smart algorithms allow web-based ventures to get a pretty detailed picture of how to best talk to and approach each customer. On top of that, all this can be fully automated, much to the relief of companies with large client bases. In summary, today’s advancements in communication (email campaigns etc) and analysis-based sales (analytics software) let online businesses mimic the interaction that customers can typically experience at a brick-and-mortar location.
For a long time, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, and Monaco stood out as the gambling capitals of their respective continents. These cities - and more specifically - their gambling industries, were the locations with long-standing traditions and enough experience to serve as “textbooks” for how to successfully operate a casino business.
Simplified, the recipe to success seemed to be “glamour.” Grandiose establishments, entertaining shows and games for every taste were the defining features of these places. Judging by the number of people (both gamblers and non-gamblers) that each of these locations keeps attracting, it is evident that this model works.
But then, the world witnessed the life-changing breakthrough that was the birth of the Internet, it redefined the casino industry, among others. Gambling became much more accessible to a broader audience. Poker games started being broadcast, turning the card game into a sport and online casino operators were faced with the task of finding ways to delight customers and reward loyal players without having physical access to them.
In brick-and-mortar locations, this is traditionally done by offering comps - complimentary extras that may include free meals, drinks, and lounge areas. The way that online operators adapted to the online world is that most online casinos are now offering lucrative welcome bonuses, like no deposit free spins to new customers. Added to that is the availability of live games, which make use of video streaming to offer online games with real croupiers and dealers, thereby bringing to players one of the more appealing aspects of brick-and-mortar gambling: live interaction.
The retail industry is a peculiar case. It is a business that simultaneously greatly benefited and bitterly lost out from the ongoing digitisation of our lives.
On the one hand, a number of brick-and-mortar retail locations were forced to close doors due to losing a significant customer base to online retail. In some cases, we are talking about enormous shopping centres and even brands with long-standing traditions ceasing to exist. On the other hand, online and offline shopping can live in synergy as evident by the Amazon Go projects and the many other physical shops that make use of today’s tech to elevate, but not replace the offline shopping experience.
Speaking of Amazon, the company is a perfect example of how online businesses adapted offline techniques to their business model. In the case of this retail giant, this involved product recommendation algorithms. It is well known that the large brick-and-mortar retail chains pay a great deal of attention to how they organise their shelving. Products that complement each other are often placed in close proximity, “hinting” to shoppers to add them to the shopping basket. Similarly, one of the most successful features of online retailers like Amazon are the algorithms that analyse shopper’s behaviour and provide tailored suggestions.
See and Touch
Traditionally, beauty and fashion products were “an offline” thing. Before online shopping gained traction, for many people it was unthinkable to purchase a garment - or even a face cream - different to their preferred brands without seeing them in person. Common objections were that clothes and shoes have to be put on and tested for fit, look, and comfort before buying them. Where beauty products are concerned, smell, texture, and colour are features that cannot be objectively assessed through a screen.
Nowadays, these sentiments have changed and the online beauty and fashion industries have gained so much traction that up-and-coming brands are now holding enviable positions in areas traditionally dominated by “senior” companies.
So, how did these online industry-disrupters managed to overcome mass objections against buying pants and deodorant on the web? Well, the main thing they did was bring their products to the hands of potential customers just like physical stores do. This happened with the help of sample boxes, free delivery and no-questions-asked returns, which are the norm for online retailers that do business in industries where touch, feel, smell, and look are defining characteristics of the product.
Some companies have taken this to a much higher level, offering personalisation through artificial intelligence. Bespoke clothing, personalised beauty regiments, and even bespoke meal services are all making use of tech to show customers that they can shop on the web without the danger of getting stuck with the wrong product.