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Mind the O2O gap

Mobile marketing simply mirrors consumer behaviour. In our day-to-day lives, we rarely speak of logging on or logging off the Internet. We’re always on.  Rather than logging on, we’re tuning in and tuning out when it suits us, from a multitude of devices, for many different reasons.

Today’s marketer faces a sizeable challenge to maintain their customers’ interest as they tune from one situation to the next. It’s their responsibility to help customers ‘Mind the Gap’ and not slip and tune to a different brand as they transition from web browsing to physical store.

Closing the gap isn’t as simple as taking best practice from online and bringing that in store. Or taking the best of our in store effort and replicating them in an e-commerce environment. Here is a great example of how NOT to close the gap.

For marketers, offline has a lot of advantages: The retailer is in control with space to share a brand experience (limited space in Hong Kong!) when the customer is actively available. Many feel this provides a better overall brand experience. Online advantages are also plentiful, enabling possible economies of scale to reach more and new consumers.

The ideal is to move between these two worlds effortlessly and seamlessly, taking the best practices from each to create a better seamless customer experience.

Omnichannel has become the ante for the retailing future of any industry. Brands that have executed this best have been the most successful and solved real business problems from their new approach.

Here in Hong Kong, online brands and retailers are opening stores, while offline brands and retailers are launching e-commerce sites. Connecting these two is the power of omnichannel, with a smartphone being the conduit.

Smartphones conditioned a generation to expect what they want, how and when they want it. In response to this, brands and retailers must serve each customer wherever and whenever she or he wants to be served. It’s a very tough task for CMOs.

Add the mobile conversion gap to this challenge and things just got a little tougher.

Hong Kong lags behind our regional neighbours when it comes to e-commerce. China has led the world with its social commerce revolution, many CEOs regard China as 10 years ahead of the rest of the world in this area.

Mall mad Hong Kong has focused on tourists and Chinese visitors. Meanwhile, technology has changed the decision cycles and spending patterns of its social commerce savvy residents who demand the choice and options of their APAC peers. Hong Kong brands and retailers are lagging online, because our offline experience is world-leading and our intimate geography makes traditional malls easily accessed.

But all is not lost…

Hong Kong can leap frog the O2O challenge and surpass our regional competitors. Our competitive edge and a greater certainty on genuine goods put us in an ideal place to move swiftly and regain our superior place as modern retail experts.

There is no doubt APAC consumers are ahead at present, but brands willing to deliver very meaningful utility and provide a service that genuinely connects with their consumers will be embraced.

Meaningful utility is where brands meet products meet commerce in an integrated on and offline experience. This could be as simple as taking your product and wrapping content around it in order to sell it online. NET-A-PORTER does this very well, presenting the top 10 trends for the season, placing their product in context, and providing a simple click-to-purchase in this magazine format. It’s a useful, natural, engaging way to shop. And their customers have embraced it.

Where that content and your product come together with your consumer and their mobile device – that is the seamless omnichannel.

The writer is Seton Vermaak, head of strategy of Razorfish Hong Kong

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