The world can be full of contradictions and online stores going offline is another example. Some of the biggest names such as eBay, Amazon and Google are leading the way back to traditional roots.

With commentators at the start of last year announcing the end of ‘bricks and mortar’ stores, what is the reason for this fast turnaround? In my humble opinion it is the shopping experience. Love them or hate them physically stores can (I emphasise can) give a more fulfilling and satisfying experience than offline. I realise that online shopping is quick, simple and saves fighting the crowds but who has not bought something online and then been disappointed either because of the fit, look or size? We have all been there.

‘Bricks and mortar’ stores allows customers to touch, try and god forbid socialise with others which is just not comparable to the online shopping experience. However as we are all aware the online experience is hardly on the decline with record online sales this Christmas. In December, Amazon announced that 1.4 million orders had taken place on their website on Cyber Monday alone and on Christmas day itself 186 million pounds was spent online in the UK. Shopping online is quick, easy and hassle free, so it is no wonder that traditional offline stores are turning to non-traditional means to encourage shoppers in-store. House of Fraser is luring customers into their stores by offering free WiFi in-store; Marks and Spencer’s ‘brick and click’ campaign combining in-store and e-commerce offerings as well augmented reality changing rooms at Topshop that save queuing for the changing room.

It seems that the lines are blurring and both traditional and new retailers are seeing the benefit of each other’s position.

topshop

@t_bloore

santa ipadThe hotly anticipated 2011 Christmas shopping season saw a rush of retailers for clambering to offer better door-buster and free shipping deals than the next. So, as a nation of consumers, did we live up to our end of the bargain?  John Lewis Group and Next are among the retailers to have already published their data. With numbers still expected from others – for high street and online – it may be another week until we have a full picture of economic data that will make a concise story. In the meantime, eConsultancy ran a nice round-up of Christmas 2011 ecommerce stats published thus far. Of interest:

· Online sales in December were up 30% year-on-year, and the last week before Christmas saw almost double the sales compared with last year, according to stats from MetaPack

· 640,000 tablets were given as gifts to adults, with the iPad dominating the market with 72% of sales

· 4.2m iOS devices were activated on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

· Christmas Day was the busiest day of the year for mobile clicks, with volumes 36% higher than the early month peak on 11 December 2011 and 50% higher than the average for December

Now here is an interesting stat:

· Boxing Day 2011 was the biggest ever day for online retail in the UK, according to Experian Hitwise, and represents a 19.5% increase from last year.

This is a measure of visits, not sales, however. Consider another stat to come out last week – More smartphone and tablet owners are researching products that purchasing them – 80.8% compared to 41.4% – it will be interesting to see how the e-commerce sales numbers stack up for Boxing Day and whether all this traffic converted into sales, or disappointed shoppers perusing the clearance sales with a Turkey hangover. My money is on the stuffing.

@jacqui_fleming

As much as the media industry would like to believe the age old saying ‘all publicity is good publicity’, research by Visable technologies comparing Macys Vs Kohl’s and Target Vs Walmart Twitter interactions demonstrated that this is not always the case.

The report compares the amount of tweets sent out and the level of customer sentiment by the four retailers in the wake of ‘Black Friday’, when brands tend to overload consumers with advertising in the vain hope that they will be chosen over a competitor.

The report proves that too much advertising does not always get results. Kohl sent out 99.7% of the two retailers tweets in that week, yet the level of sentiment for Kohl’s was one of annoyance. However the report goes on to prove that if the material is fresh and relevant to customers, self promotion is not always a bad thing with Walmart sending out proportionally more Tweets than Target but these were seen by customers as original and fresh.

This shows that brands need to be aware of the rising consumer power and tailor fresh and personal communication to customers rather than trying to gain as much coverage is possible.

@t_bloore