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E-tailers use purchase history and trends to customize online shopping experiences, raking in sales after meeting the customer’s expectations. But can online stores deliver that same experience offline? An article on the Business 2 Community website explores how online retailers can branch out in a multichannel world.

Consider this scenario: A shopper comes into a store and checks in with an employee, who is using a smartphone or tablet to view the customer’s previous shopping trips and online behavior. Based on this data, the employee can offer a discount or suggest products for the customer to buy in store.

Kiddicare, a British children’s e-tailer, is living that offline scenario. The company realized that customers want to feel, touch and test products before purchasing them. So it became a “clicks and mortar” operation, opening multiple offline retail locations and ensuring that customers received the same customized treatment as they do online, the article reports.

Retailers first need to gather information before they can figure out how to use it. It’s not possible to devise a strategy on how to push marketing messages out to customers based on their order history without knowing that history in the first place. The key is to capture as much information as possible at the point-of-sale.

Many larger retailers have an e-commerce system, but often it’s on a separate system. In other words, if the customer buys a product on the web, that information may not be available to staff at the store. E-commerce sites have improved, but they need to start being integrated with store systems, or at the very least share a common data set.

Mobile is one area that all retailers are trying to figure out. If retailers are going to engage in all of this information sharing, then the next natural step is to be able to push information to consumers via mobile. That way if a retailer recognizes that a customer is on an e-commerce site looking for a particular product it could send the customer a mobile coupon or invite the person to a storefront location for a discount on that product.

Source: Business 2 Community, April 2013