Barclays Bank have done something right today…! Whoopee…! Bring on the cheerleaders…! In massive headlines on their own corporate website they have announced the resignation of the company Chairman Marcus Agius and given details of the subsequent board changes. Their website has immediately reflected what is going on in the “real world”. That was not the case, for instance, when British Airways had a chaotic launch of Heathrow’s Terminal 5. It was several days before the BA website had any mention of the issue. The real world experience of BA customers was very different to the online one which the company was serving up.
Even though Barclays appears to have realised that the online world and the “real world” are now so intertwined that you can hardly tell the difference, there are several businesses which have yet to work that out. Indeed, you can find any number of customer service complaints about companies on Twitter who fail to respond because they haven’t yet got a Twitter account. Or you can see people complaining “live” about an issue on all manner of social networks, say at some kind of event where there is a problem, but the organisers are not monitoring the virtual world so have no way of dealing with their online reputation.
The online world and the real world are now so heavily interconnected you cannot separate them. And at long last retailers are beginning to realise this.
Research shows, for instance, that if a retailer has free Wi-Fi in its stores the customers go online and checkout prices at competitors. So, shopkeepers don’t want Wi-Fi in their stores. But what happens to the customers? Well, they walk out of the shop to get a better phone signal and are therefore not engaged with the products and services in front of them. With in-store Wi-Fi people trade convenience for price. So even if they go online in your shop and find the item cheaper elsewhere they consider how much the saving is really worth to them. They may try to negotiate, but what happens is the shopkeeper is more likely to get the sale if they do have free Wi-Fi. It is an example of the fact that retailers need to increasingly connect themselves to the online world.
The trouble is, most retailers see the two things as separate. They have a real world shop and an online store. Some, like Argos, have realised that a “click and collect” service encourages purchasing. You buy online and collect in-store. A number of retailers now do this, even providing keener prices for the web buyer.
But the real issue is that these click and collect services are not really connecting the online world and the real one. After all, you might work in an office in a business park, miles from the nearest Argos. You could order online and get it delivered, but then they want to take it to your home address and you are at work…!
Online retailer Asos has been leading the way by partnering with Collect+. You can order from Asos and pick up your parcel from your local Spar shop, for instance. Now, John Lewis is seeking partners to do a similar thing. Rather than being forced to go to your local John Lewis store, you’ll be able to order goods online and pick them up from somewhere more convenient to you.
Slowly, but surely, major retailers are realising that the way we work and live nowadays has changed. We no longer work a simple 9 to 5; we no longer have every weekend off. We spend many hours online and not in the real world. Consequently distribution of goods has to change. Gosh, even online retail giant Amazon is rumoured to be opening real world shops.
This is all a sign – like the immediate update of the Barclays website this morning – that the real world and the physical world are completely interconnected. Which begs a question or two for your business. Is your online presence interconnected with your real world activity? Can people get hold of the ebooks and reports you provide online in physical form somewhere? Can you deliver your online services in the real world too?
Separating your web presence from your real world presence is no longer possible.
- Wi-Fi is the key to combined in-store and online retail experiences (liberatemedia.com)
- Barclays to review ‘flawed’ practices as Agius resigns – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+