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A new retail era is emerging. It will seamlessly blend the online and offline retail experience together, allowing customers to shop where and how they want, at any time. Let’s take a look at two retailers who have demonstrated this concept.

Marks & Spencer (Netherlands – Amsterdam)

The new e-boutique concept store of Marks & Spencer is its first step to re-enter the Netherlands with a clear focus on the cross-channel consumer. The concept is built around the online buying opportunity of food and non-food, a strong and growing trend in the Netherlands.

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The M&S stores in the Netherlands were profitable in the past, but their focus on their home market and core business made them decide to close stores. Now, they are back in the Netherlands with a brand new concept store in Amsterdam (Holland), which is already a big success in France. Marks & Spencer is a full range department store but the focus of the e-boutique is primarily on fashion.

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They offer the consumer many online and technological innovations within a physical environment. Customers can view clothing samples and order products online with a digital clothing rack on a life-sized screen. The store has about 120 samples, which gives customers the opportunity to try on and touch, but not to buy, of course. Style advisors are equipped with ipads and customers can use their smartphones with the free in-store Wi-Fi. Furthermore, customers can visit the totally Dutch version of the M&S website. M&S offers the consumer the opportunity to buy their favorite products anytime they want, anywhere they want and anyhow they want. This is a good strategy in a market with a growing number of consumers who like to shop both online and offline.

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It’s easier to start a new concept with a cross-channel strategy than changing your traditional offline strategy to implement one. That’s one of the secrets of the success of M&S. The e-boutique attracts consumers because of its innovative use of online technologies, which makes M&S a front runner in cross-channel innovation. They open small food stores in high traffic locations and flagship stores in densely populated areas. The stores are their physical service for their cross-channel strategy and they will use these locations as part of their logistic concept. Most of the national retailers have too many stores and struggle with keeping them profitable. This gives M&S the opportunity to gain market share using fewer locations and a good cross-channel platform.

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Marks & Spencer is pioneering a new way to enter a market initially through an e-boutique to build trial and awareness followed by brick and mortar stores. Technology can provide new pathways for growth at less risk.

Coolblue (Netherlands & Belgium)

Pure player Coolblue responded to customers’ needs by opening ‘the offline web shop’. With this new concept, the retailer found the balance between offline and online.

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Coolblue grew from a pure player in consumer electronics, launching one specialized shop called mp3man.nl in 2000, to a fast growing online retailer with almost 200 category web shops. The resulting retail concept was very successful in the Netherlands and Belgium, as they plan to open an additional 100 specialized web shops in 2013. Its customer, however, wanted more. Answering the call of the cross-channel trend, Coolblue extended its channel and brand experience to the brick and mortar world by opening their so-called offline web shop.

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Coolblue recognized some customers wanted to see and touch products or have face-to-face information and advice about which goods are most suitable for them. The physical Coolblue shop made this possible. The Coolblue shop is all about service. Specialists from different product categories help you with all of your questions almost every day of the week with extended operating hours. The shop also has a desk for repairing products and check-out is possible in many different ways.

When ordering something online, the customer can choose to have it delivered to her home or she can pick it up in store the next day.
The success of Coolblue is all about delivering what the customer wants while providing excellent service to encourage customers to return again and again.

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Every year Coolblue expands with more web stores, and their business model is totally built on EBIDA and customer satisfaction. The new step into opening physical stores is the clear answer to the demand of the new cross-channel consumer and marks the beginning of a new area, as well for pure players.

Conclusion

There is no question that the majority of innovation, now and into the future, will demand that retailers offer the customer the best of what the physical and virtual worlds have to offer. While there has been significant pressure on brick and mortar retailers to enhance their online and cross-channel capabilities, online players are also adapting to changing consumer demands by using physical space to attract customers.

About Retail Innovations 9

RI9 - imageRetail lnnovations 9 is J.C. Williams Group’s and Ebeltoft Group’s (www.ebeltoftgroup.com) latest compilation of leading edge innovation, highlighting individual ideas and the key themes that emerge from studying the whole.

This edition features 54 of the best innovation cases from 23 countries and pinpoints the nine global innovation trends.

To obtain a copy of this publication, click here.

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