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The Online Shopping Oxymoron

Offline & Online Shopping Now One & The Same

A recent article by in Google Think Insights by Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s SVP of Ads and Commerce, explores some of the foundations of the retail shopping experience and how they translate into today’s world. The article focuses on key drivers of shopping behavior and offers suggestions on how to use digital tools to connect and engage potential customers along the decision-making pathway.

What really stood out in this piece was a simple statement at the beginning:

Consumers no longer see a distinction between online and offline shopping.

A picture of a man handing a woman a shopping bag.

Think about that for a minute. Online shopping has lost the distinction of being a subcategory of shopping. For more and more people, it is integral to some aspect of the overall buying experience even if a purchase is made in a brick and mortar establishment. And for many of today’s consumers, it’s the only way they have ever shopped.

Coming from someone who lives and breathes technology, it is particularly interesting to hear Mr. Ramaswamy highlight the fundamental underpinnings of any successful sales interaction: knowing your customers and giving them what they want when they want it. This has nothing to do with technology. It’s about human nature.

The interface between humans and technology in the shopping realm will continue to grow and change. Interest in neuromarketing platforms that measure consumers’ unconscious responses to online advertisements and intention-based applications is increasing. But there are already a variety of digital tools that retailers can use to gain understanding of their customer’s likes and dislikes. Using technology to help collect and analyze human behavior, and then making adjustments as that behavior changes can help businesses create the optimal conditions to attract their target audience.

As ecommerce professionals, we see every day how comparison shopping engines, paid search, remarketing and marketplaces help our clients reach customers in real-time, and how analytics help shape and refine these initiatives. But underneath it all, working to understand the desires, needs and preferences of today’s consumer – a human being—is critical to making the successful connection that results in a sale.

Technology allows us to do what we do with greater efficiency, understanding and finesse, but we never want to lose sight of the human aspect of these efforts. Delivering the sought after shopping experience to the person on the other end of that digital device is the ultimate goal. In order to stay viable, ecommerce merchants need to be able to deliver an experience comparable to that of a shopkeeper in a face to face setting. This includes making a new customer feel welcome, acknowledging a return visitor, providing fast, friendly and efficient service, tailoring offerings based on preferences and creating incentives to return again. Do that and you will find customers beating a path to your virtual door.

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