Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Channel Symbiosis and the Next Generation Customer Experience

I believe that at some point in the near future, forward thinking retailers must recognise the fact that the existing model of shops as one-dimensional rooms for showcasing products by category is fast becoming outdated by consumer familiarity with the online shopping experience. On the internet, consumers can access related products, accessories, comparative price options, product information, reviews, simplified purchasing, delivery, and bargains, while also being able to feedback to others about the experience. What they cannot do is try out products for fit, look, appropriateness or ease of use before buying, or even benefit from the immediacy of collecting the item at time of purchase; so it is clear that both channels are not just relevant but highly complementary, and should be treated as such.

However, as far as I'm aware no one has made this leap towards a truly symbiotic, holistic online-offline customer experience. There is absolutely no reason why customers shouldn't be able to shop in-store with the same benefits as online. It just needs a little lateral thinking, starting with recognising that while the Web started out as a separate and independent commerce stream in order that companies could minimise risk while still learning about its capabilities and user models, it is now a well established and experience-driven business and usability model that can and should be leveraged to improve customer experience across channels in the physical world.

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