In the 25 years or so since the Web has been widely introduced, a general expectation has emerged that businesses will offer digital, and increasingly, mobile solutions for such features as shopping, scheduling, search, advertising and promotions.
“The journey has sped up,” noted Westfield Co-CEO Steven Lowy at the recent ShopTalk conference. “You build a digital platform on top of the physical platform, and converge digital and physical together.”
But should SMBs always present digital and physical channels as seamless, integrated offerings? In a truly seamless setting, customers can research on any channel; shop on any channel; and make an appointment for service or delivery in a variety of formats.
There may literally be hundreds of online/mobile/ in person combinations – all aimed at getting a leg-up and capturing more of the “impulse” purchasing that has made Amazon such a lethal competitor in retail. (With its seamless integration of search and ordering, Amazon gets roughly 3-4X the amount of impulse buying that other retailers get.)
The question of integration has recently heated up again as businesses begin to introduce newer channels, such as mobile and artificial intelligence-driven chat bots.
The reality for SMBs is that simplicity wins: while digital and mobile efforts are essential, most don’t need to build out a massive digital operation. But for the growing number of SMBs that do have a robust digital presence, integration should be a focus from the get-go.
Developing a digital or mobile channel as a “substitute” for regular business activities is not the way to go. Integration will prevent under- performance and headaches down the road.
About the Author
Peter Krasilovsky runs Local Onliner, a consulting firm that focuses on how digital channels target local consumers. “Local” has been a focus for him since 1995-96, and the firm's practice now includes search, marketplaces, geotargeting, vertical media and loyalty and promotion services. Peter was Chief Analyst and Vice President for BIA/Kelsey from 2006-2015. He holds an MA from The Annenberg School of Communications at The University of Southern California and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. He currently resides with his wife Sharon in Ashland, Oregon.Follow on Twitter More Content by Peter Krasilovsky