The Metaspace Economy, a term coined by Weiner, Edrich, Brown, Inc., in reference to today’s new economy, is impacting the retail sector and holiday purchasing behaviors, reveals Erica Orange, VP of the company. “We know that brick-and-mortar retail is increasingly moving to online channels. This isn’t anything new. The one thing we know about distribution channels is that when new technologies are introduced, they don’t subtract from or eliminate what came previously, but rather what happens is a multiplication effect. In other words, they mutually strengthen each other.”
In fact, Google is talking about this being the first “nonline” shopping season, meaning that shoppers don’t see a line between their online and offline experiences. Google conducted a study and found that 80 percent of shoppers will research online before making a purchase this season, and they switch devices to suit their needs. For example, 51 percent of shoppers will research online and then visit the store to purchase, while 17 percent will visit a store first and then purchase online. Another 32 percent will research online, visit a store to view a product, then return online to purchase. “In short, the shopper’s journey looks less like a funnel and more like a flight map,” says Todd Pollak, Google retail industry director.
According to Google’s research, consumers are most excited about purchasing clothes, TVs, laptops and tablets, although they intend to shop across all major retail categories. Fully 83 percent intend to purchase apparel, 64 percent intend to purchase toys, 57 percent intend to purchase electronics, 56 percent intend to purchase watches and jewelry, 49 percent intend to purchase cosmetics and beauty products, and 35 percent intend to purchase sporting goods.
To reach consumers this holiday season, countless retailers operate in both traditional brick-and-mortar and virtual realms, Orange points out. Examples include:
- Traditional brick-and-mortar establishments merging with the virtual;
- In-store experiences merging with gaming platforms; and
- Real-world brands merging with location-based social media platforms.
“These are all examples of new distribution channels,” she notes. “We also see them effectively marrying the two in increasingly innovative and expansive ways. Look, for instance, at what Nike is doing, combining in-store gaming, social media and smartphone technology to create a holistic consumer retailing and brand experience.” The Nike store in Santa Monica features a Nike+ station that employs a big screen television to educate consumers on how to use the device to design workouts, measure running distances, track calories and network with other runners online. The system also rewards users if they reach certain fitness milestones. By placing a pedometer in a pair of Nike shoes, a user can monitor distance, pace, calories burned, and even transmit that data to an iPod and upload it online where users can discuss achievements and create challenges online with other users, Orange explains. The Nike GPS app for the iPhone combines GPS and accelerometry technologies to track your run. Users can sync, save and see their workout directly on their Nikeplus.com profile. “Far from just selling shoes, this is an experience that uses multiplication and intimacy of distribution channels to enhance the entire relationship,” Orange stresses. “And it works as long as customers feel they are benefitting from it.”
When considering the upcoming holiday season, brands that know how to engage consumers on a variety of platforms will emerge as winners. Consumers want to interact with the brand in more than one way, and brands that successfully integrate their offline and online presence will engage the consumer on a new level, Orange continues. “Consumers don’t see a line between their online and offline experiences, and neither do smart retailers.”