By Anders Sorman-Nilsson

As digital disruption is starting to ramp up in other industries, is the hype of pureplay shopping in the retail sector starting to fizzle out, or is it gathering steam?

Will we see the end of the bricks and mortar stores, or does the analogue store still represent something fundamentally human and enduring? Is the promise of ‘clicks and bricks’ truly reliable for retail business leaders? How do retail business leaders strategically position their brands and the customer experience in such a way to win the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s customer?

These are all questions that are keeping retail owners and strategists awake at night, and so they should. We are living in a moment of digital disruption, and something needs to be done.

While digital evangelists will tell you that the future is entirely digital, we are starting to see evidence you shouldn’t throw away the analogue store.

In recent months, Australians have witnessed digital cracks in pureplay sector such as questions about The Iconic’s business model. Meanwhile, Shoes of Prey has gone old school by opening up a physical retail presence in David Jones and StyleTread has been sold by its founders to the Munro family.

While digital players are blamed for the poor sales of Australian retailers, the initial hype of digital retailing may be over. With cracks appearing, it seems digital players are turning to the analogue world of physical retail to connect with customers – both locally and globally.

Digital disruption is already hitting retailers in a big way and this decade of digital discontinuity will continue abruptly. Digital disruption is the idea that everything that can be digitised will effectively become digitised. But it’s only disruptive if you’re not adaptive.

Together with highly impacted industries like travel, entertainment, retail insurance, retail banking, and publishing, retailers need to be on full alert and adopt new ways of winning the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s customer.

Retailers need to recognize that they don’t need to choose being either digital or analogue. Instead the sweet spot is between both worlds called digilogue.

Increasingly, bricks and mortar retailers are building a digital presence, but equally important is that pureplay stores are starting to wear their digital hearts on their analogue sleeves as well.

  • Zappo’s online shoe retailer has invested heavily in its call centre’s analogue culture to create the best-in-breed customer experience, over the phone
  • eBay has invested in bricks and mortar pop-up shops in London and NYC
  • PayPal is establishing an analogue presence in the subways across Asia so consumers can make digital retail decisions in the analogue world
  • Mr Porter clothes retailer publishes an old school newspaper focused on education and fashion to drive online sales

On the other hand, we are seeing adaptive bricks and mortar retailers embracing digilogue, too:

  • Woolworths is investing in click and collect and online delivery of groceries
  • Tesco’s continue to mine its rich data of consumer purchase patterns to boost its point of sale promotions, sales optimisation and psychographic segment marketing
  • No 1 retail chain in China, Suning, recently launched with the ambition to become a combination of Amazon and Walmart
  • Apple blasted its digital, high tech consumer electronics competitors by investing in a great experiential, analogue concept experience and is leading the world in sales per square meter as a result.

The lesson here is that consumers today are increasingly doing their due diligence digitally, such as price comparison and weighing rational choices in their minds before stepping through analogue (or digital) doors.

Make sure you provide value to their digital, rational minds while they are in that mode of the purchase cycle. But equally make sure that once they do step through your doors, whether digital or analogue, that they have a great emotional experience that builds analogue connection for the long term. We must respect that consumers today see an analogue visit to your bricks and mortar store as a big investment of their time.

Thus, do your utmost to provide world class customer service, but make sure you do it in a digital, best-in-breed, timely fashion as well. Go digilogue.

Anders Sorman-Nilsson is the author of a new book, “Digilogue: How to Win the Digital Minds and Analogue Hearts of Tomorrow’s Customer”