How to beat online only retailers

I was cleaning my glasses the other day and they snapped in half. As a person with a very high prescription this was not good news. So I took myself off to the large Australian optical retailer, OPSM. The service was fantastic. Not only did they give me free contact lenses for a week so I could see, they made sure I had a comprehensive eye test and advised me to change the type of lenses I wore. Having done an online price check i know my flash new glasses will cost more, but I still walked out of their store a happy customer.

There’s a lesson here for traditional bricks and mortar retailers under threat from only only retailers, and it is simply be better. Offer an experience that makes the customer feel valued and important. Justify higher prices by offering services which online retailers can’t. Custom fittings, expert advice, friendly personal service, and friction-free buying create an experience valued by consumers and not easily repeated by online retailers. Whilst consumers tend to buy online are price conscious, the process of buying online still has inherent friction points that are not easily addressed: fitting, delivery, security, returns, urgency, instant gratification. A good retailer can address price concerns with a good digital marketing strategy that funnels consumers into store and seals the deal with a great buying experience.

This is the key. Not only do retailers have to invest in creating a fantastic retailing experience in store, they need to use digital marketing to augment the experience and drive consumers into their stores. Gavin Heaton talks about this in his excellent post, Driving Retail From Digital to Destination.

For OPSM this could mean integrating social media into the buying experience, getting your glasses rated by friends on Facebook, and celebrating fashion in their online channels. Having a website with price competitive products supported by custom fittings and support in-store is an excellent way OPSM could further develop their already excellent experience.

What do you think?