This article investigates the close relationship between an integration of the online and offline retail strategies adopted by the retailers in United Kingdom and an analysis of the consumers’ perception of it. The structure of the paper begins with a definition of e-commerce and its growing popularity in the fashion segment, reasons for this choice of subject area followed by literature reviews on the chosen topic and strategic business issues relevant to the subject area, a synthesis of secondary information backed up with theories and models that will support the research, initial ideas for primary research methodologies to develop this title for article and lastly conclusion.

Anant Sharma, CEO of Matter Of Form, a leading eCommerce agency in London says,

  • “Bricks and mortar will serve as a showroom demonstrating tactility and experiential aspects that define its target persona and brand culture. But plug and play pop-up retail trends allow smaller brands greater exposure with lower fixed costs.
  • Legacy bricks and mortar brands, late to digital, suffer high costs maintaining bad data and legacy integrations, rendering advanced CRM expensive and inaccessible. This is of detriment to the overall customer experience, reducing potential for each channel to play into the next building long term loyalty and awareness.”

In the words of Steve Jobs (1989), “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new”. Keeping this quotation in mind one can see that retailers today are no longer selling the necessities of life; they’re selling a lifestyle. Shopping is undergoing a revolution and hence as the retail saturation and consumer mobility increases, they need to differentiate their offering to the customers. With the enhancement of digital commerce, the retailers are now being perceived by the multichannel strategies that they carve out (Clements 2012).

According to a Mintel report (2011) multichannel retailers experienced stronger growth during 2010 than pure play operators, with these companies benefiting from having both a physical store as well as an online presence. Furthermore, as both broadband and smartphone penetration continues to increase in emerging markets; the potential global online market is larger than ever before. A Verdict e-retail report (2012) states that the number of online shoppers in the UK increased by 1.4 million in 2011 to 30.7 million people, representing 77.1% of all Internet users.

By underlining these statistics, the research conducted consisted of secondary research that contributed towards the literature review where books and journal articles backed the secondary research. Following the initial stages of research, primary research was conducted that included an observational survey, a case study, two focus groups and two interviews that tested the perceptions and effectiveness of online-offline integration amongst 14 respondents, two interviewees and 100 observational survey consumers.

Consumers nowadays are so well aware of their surroundings, be it new brands (e.g. Oliver Bear, a luxury leather and suede handbag brand) or advertising techniques that they are quick to gauge the intention of the message being given to them. Multichannel as a marketing strategy seems to be extremely positive and useful in the Indian market scenario with majority of the consumers not having an issue with it, rather it gives them something new and unique to look out for in their old world of one way shopping (either only online or only offline).

The researcher through this thesis learnt about the new age consumer and how they have evolved with the changing times. The gradual progression of online retail that is happening was also observed to evaluate and learn new marketing techniques such as offering customers variety of options for shopping in store (thereby exploiting the phenomenon of showrooming to their advantage), building stronger customer relations even through transactional ecommerce websites with a range of delivery options and other returns services. Lastly this thesis concluded that online customer interface will not replace offline or vice versa but the importance of an integrated experience of both online and offline should be maintained to supports the core identity of a brand.

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I'm an eCommerce Project Director at an agency in London and a consultant for a number of eCommerce start-ups. I founded Think etc 9 years ago which now lets me share my research and experience with all the interesting brands, people, places and projects that I have been privileged to work with. My work on crowdsourcing was published by Oxford as part of a journal article and I have been obsessing over eCommerce and Magento over the past several years.