Clicks and Bricks
To paraphrase an old quote, "Online is online and offline is offline, and never the two shall meet."
Not so on the Net. As mentioned earlier, consumers are already receiving offers offline to shop online, and online coupons used to shop offline stores are already in existence. Brick-and-mortar stores are transforming themselves into "click-and-mortar" companies, and printed catalog houses are morphing into "click-and-flip" merchants. TV is converging with the Net, and the Net is converging with same-day delivery services. Even banks are getting into the act, turning ATMs into Internet kiosks.
It looks like the brick-and-mortar companies and their online strategies are poised to win the next round of the e-commerce battle by offering the pure-play dot-coms a run for their money. It would be wise now to take a leaf out of their notebook and realize that the combination of offline and online is the futureone that offers your e-business a variety of marketing opportunities. An offline presence for an e-business adds more than the opportunity for a sale. It builds brand recognition and the medium for customer acquisition and retention. It also gives online and offline companies the chance to form affiliations that would benefit both.
For example, take America Online and the Blockbuster video stores. AOL uses Blockbuster to help it acquire new customers. Blockbuster hands out those free AOL membership CDs we've all come to know. In return, AOL promotes Blockbuster on their service. Another customer-acquisition partnership is the affiliation between the TV network CBS and Medscape. They create co-op ads that benefit both.
Affiliations can be used not only for customer acquisition but for customer retention. Drugstore.com and the click-and-mortar drugstore RiteAid have integrated their services so that customers can place a prescription refill order online and pick it up at their local RiteAid drug store. Both benefit by giving their customers a reason to continue doing business with them.
Finally, the combinations of offline and online marketing venues are nearly endless. New companies routinely appear that bring a new twist to combined online and offline marketing strategies. Selling anywherein the real world, over a wire, through a wireless device, and all over the world, has to be part of the marketing strategy of your e-business. Looking at how other e-businesses are selling anywhere can give you ideas when its time to form your marketing strategies.