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Video: Bridging the Online and Offline Channels

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In the early days of the rise of e-commerce, the commonly held narrative was that either brick-and-mortar or online sales would win. Today, retailers have come to recognize that it’s not one or the other. Both the online and offline experience matter to customers.

Understanding what works in each format starts with putting yourself in the customers’ shoes, said Sebastian Siemiatkowski, CEO of payment and fintech company Klarna. This is particularly true online.

“In most traditional retailers, part of becoming a manager in the store is to work in every aspect of the store, to do every part of the job,” he said. “And still when I talk to physical retailers and ask ‘how often have you shop on your own online store?,’ the answer is zero.”

It’s a culture difference of using your own store and testing it and understanding it and treating it as you did the physical store.

Andy Delgadillo, account executive for e-commerce platform provider Magento, said the challenge now is not just connecting the two, but also capitalizing on the strengths of each channel.

“Retailers need to adapt or risk becoming irrelevant,” Magento said. “Consumers are expecting a highly personalized, seamless and intuitive experience across any touchpoint and any channel. Where we traditionally see offline channels succeed is in high consideration purchases like sunglasses, furniture or vehicles…How do you do that online?”

While challenging to figure out, Delgadillo said the payoff is well worth it—primarily in the form of loyalty. The goal, he said, should be “growing your returning customer base by reducing the returns because they’re happy with their purchases.” One retailer that’s cracked the code has been rewarded with a 42 percent increase in returning customers and a 17 percent increase in average order value.

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