Earlier this month I posted some thoughts on how to improve the brick and mortar bookstore experience. Many readers weighed in, making for an interesting discussion. I’ve been on the road a lot lately and fell a bit behind in my reading. On a flight back from San Francisco the other night I finally got around to reading the April issue of MIT’s Technology Review. It’s a great magazine and one I’d recommend to anyone interested in technology.
The article that caught my eye was called E-Commerce Gets Smarter. It reminds me of the brick and mortar bookstore post noted above. In that post, I talked about some ideas for in-store kiosks and how they could be used to enhance the customer experience. Here are a few interesting related excerpts from the Technology Review article:
The business jargon for this model of integrating retails sales is “multichanneling” – that is, fusing digital services with in-store, mail order, and telephone sales, and with any other retail channels.
By looking at just a few of a customer’s purchases, a retailer will even be able to predict how much she’ll spend over her lifetime, and adjust the deals and promotions it offers her accordingly.
Last year, another $355 billion in retail sales took place in physical stores after consumers had done their homework online. Overall, says Jupiter, for every $1 consumers spend online, they spend $6 offline as a result of research conducted on the Internet.
Many companies set up online stores in the mid to late 1990s, often building proprietary systems that were not integrated with other parts of their operations. Later, harmonizing operations seemed expensive and difficult. It’s only since the economy has improved that some retail executives have been investing more heavily in integrating their sales channels.
I think it’s time for the brick and mortar bookstores to get with it and really leverage this “multichanneling” concept. They’ve got to embrace an online presence in the stores and offer customers services and conveniences the .com’s can’t. As I also noted in my original post, I think this can be done with minimal investment from the bookstores – there are probably plenty of potential sponsors out there who would jump on the opportunity to fund a new PR and marketing program like this.