By now, most retailers are familiar with the concepts behind online-to-offline commerce — even if they aren’t embracing it as a business model. In the simplest terms, O2O commerce combines the selling strategies and platforms of online retail with the physical shopping experience of brick-and-mortar selling.
While its popularity is a big more established among consumer-based industries that require a physical consumer experience, such as restaurants, live events, and beauty salons, retailers are discovering that O2O can be a great strategy for building a better customer service experience.
As CIO Insights notes, an effective O2O selling model will leverage the advantages of both online and offline selling while minimizing the deficits of each. The result is a much stronger branded customer experience.
Targeting Last-Minute Shopping
One of the key benefits of O2O shopping comes during last-minute shopping moments, such as in the lead-up to Christmas, the night before Valentine’s Day, and right before a birthday. When consumers are in a pinch and in need of a gift, online shopping is likely not an option — even if expedited shipping is available, it can be expensive.
But in an O2O selling model, consumers can go online to check out retail inventories, and use a retail website to find out which stores offer the products they want. That way, they can visit the store directly and get exactly the item they want, saving the task of visiting multiple stores or wandering aisles to decide what item they’d like to buy.
Even outside of last-minute shopping scenarios, O2O selling can aid in consumer product discoveries. When consumers only shop online, retailers have to be more aggressive about exposing shoppers to new items the way they might find them on store shelves.
But when online commerce drives in-store visits, consumers are more exposed to those in-store shopping strategies, such as product displays. Since O2O inevitably increases foot traffic into brick-and-mortar locations, retailers can convert online activity into additional in-store purchases that might not have happened if consumers had completed the transaction online.
Consumers Get the Best of Both Worlds
Retailers may be reluctant to install such a business model into their store chain, but consumers benefit from O2O in a big way. First, they have the luxury of choosing between online and O2O shopping in the first place. They can always decide to complete an online order and have the product shipped to them, but if they prefer to visit a store, that’s easy for retailers to facilitate.
Meanwhile, this new shopping dynamic satisfies consumer desires for a fluid omnichannel experience. O2O is a more natural response to today’s consumer habits, and providing the type of service customers want will generate more brand experiences.
In the end, retailers can use O2O to maximize their gains from each channel. Instead of competing with one another, online and offline commerce can work together to increase their respective values to a brand.
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