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Blended Retailing: Definition, Examples & Consumer Expectations

Instructor: David Whitsett

David has taught computer applications, computer fundamentals, computer networking, and marketing at the college level. He has a MBA in marketing.

Many retailers have stores and an online presence and some have successfully blended the two sales approaches. In this lesson we'll examine blended retailing, provide some examples and discuss consumer expectations.

More Than Bricks and Mortar

Retail shops and markets have been around for hundreds of years. Online retailing has been around for slightly more than 20 years. Blended retailing is the newest iteration and implies a hybrid of online sales and bricks and mortar (B&M) shops. Think of them as two channels, a physical channel and a virtual channel. The question is, how do retailers take advantage of shifting consumer preferences and maximize profitability?

The blended approach helps maintain profitability because one channel can take up slack for the other. For example, if retail locations are suffering because of poor weather in a region (think hurricane season), the online platform does not share the same problem. The flip side would be if the web site suffers a technical glitch and is down, the retail store is still open and bringing in revenue.

Having an online presence also makes it easier to tap global markets for smaller retailers. It much easier to do business internationally online than it is to consider opening a location in a foreign country.

Also, with few exceptions, you need an online presence to be competitive. Even if there's no e-commerce piece to your web site, you still can let people know who you are, where you are, and what you do.

Showrooming

Have you ever gone to a store to view an item and then gone home and bought it online? This practice is known as showrooming and it has been a challenge for stores who lose sales when you walk out the door. How can a retailer deal with showrooming? Here are some ideas.

  • In-store price checking and matching - let consumers check pricing online in the store and offer to match the online price.
  • Make the customer's in-store experience mobile-friendly - offer coupons, shopping tools, easy checkout, etc.
  • Send SMS text messages to customers in the area.
  • Train store employees - teach store employees to recognize showrooming behavior and to engage customers with help and offers.
  • Offer personalized pricing - incentivize customers to check in on their mobile device in the store by offering special pricing.

Express Pickup and Delivery

Retailers like Walmart and Best Buy have tried different in-store pickup options for online orders. Customers can place orders online and then go through an expedited pickup procedure at the store, not waiting in a normal line or picking up items from a coded locker. Amazon has also tried the coded locker approach for customers to pick up items ordered online. Some stores have offered curbside pickup.

A variation of this scenario is the ability to view store inventory online. Studies show that 71% of consumers expect to be able to view store inventory online, so stores like Lowe's offer the ability to check product availability in your neighborhood store.

Some stores and online retailers offer same-day delivery of in-stock items. This service is not available in all areas of the country, but it does offer an added level of speed and convenience. For example, you buy a 70-inch flat screen but you drive a 2-door sports car. Same day delivery to the rescue!

Customers want to integrate their online and in-store experiences
Blended shopping

Integrating The Online and B&M Experience

Consumers like a seamless shopping experience that gives them the best of both worlds, physical and virtual. Having tablets available for in-store use or sales reps using tablets to assist customers is becoming more common. Since customers love their mobile devices, some stores like Walmart have implemented smartphone checkout systems while other stores put QR codes on the shelves so consumers can get more info about a product.

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