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Guide stores and the merging of online and offline e-commerce for consumer confidence.
23rd November 2012

Struggling with customer confidence in your online store? Here is the answer for you - Guide Stores.

What is a guide store?

A guide store is a physical store which acts as the real world companion to your online e-commerce website. A guide store down not actually sell merchandise but acts as a human touch point for your online store.

A guide store is not an office or just a helpdesk but a full fledged store with shelves and merchandise on display along with kiosks for ordering online. You can order through the kiosks (or nowadays some use tablets) and have the orders shipped to your home. But no actual transaction takes place in the store itself.

What is the function of a guide store?

The core function is to build consumer confidence but there are many secondary uses for a guide store.

Some of these functions include

  • Display the merchandise so that consumers can get a taste of the quality.
  • Act as a customer support touch point for customers who require human interaction.
  • Prominently display your brand in the real world giving your online grand a boost.
  • Hold events and interactions for your online loyal customers.

Was it not the point of the internet to eliminate physical stores, then why guide stores?

More and more online retailers are realizing that being only online is not enough. Customers are looking for touch points where they can make actual physical contact with the company. It may just be human nature to want something tangible.

Guide Stores are a good place to do the initial setup of the customers in case products need customization

Bonobos in the US  uses its guide shop to get exact measurements of its customers and recommend a set size for them. So that when they order online all thier size data is already uploaded. All they have to do is purchase.

This is a very useful tool - setup the customer once and generate repeat purchases with minimum fuss. This works in fostering loyalty as a customer who has been measured or setup will favour you for all future purchases.

Guide Stores are also useful for creating gravity in an area where you have maximum customers

Businesses are always looking for ways to get closer to thier customers and what is better than opening a guide store in an area having a very large number of your online customers. Its a way for rewarding them for their loyalty and also creating a gravity point for them to deepen their ties with your business. Its only logical that existing customers will bring new customers with them and increase your customer base in that area.

As anyone who has read my posts for any period of time will know that I always favour click and mortar versus only mortar. I feel businesses who have real world experience and presense do better online as well (although not in all cases ofcourse, there are lots of exceptions). But Guide shops provide a very nice blending of the online and offline to give customers the best of both worlds.

Cheers,
Ron

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