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The Importance Of Offline Retail Presence In An Online World While the popularity of online shopping has soared over the past few years, the value of an offline presence hasn't diminished.

By Shahzad Bhatti

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Today, the World Wide Web is ingrained as part of the day-to-day experience for all of us. From communicating with colleagues and banking online to personal entertainment and staying in touch with friends, "logging on" is now an intrinsic human behavior.

The movement has completely reimagined the retail industry, with the rise of online shopping materializing as a convenient, and cost effective way to consume.

Yet, while the latest research from Verdict Retail predicts that UK online retail sales will hit £62.7 billion by 2020, eMarketer asserts that 90% of retail sales still take place in store. The latest addition to Facebook's B2B inventory backs up this idea that an offline presence is still a hugely important asset for retailers.

In-house research confirms that smartphones are now used in 45% of all shopping journeys, yet Matthew Idema, Facebook's Vice-President of Monetization Product Marketing stresses that "The shift to mobile has happened, but the vast majority of sales take place in-store."

This led to the launch of a new in-store API app that allows retailers to actively measure the impact that online marketing campaigns have on in-store purchases. "With these products, Facebook can now drive people to your stores from mobile and measure the results for your business," he explains.

The internet is the heart and soul of the global small business scene, empowering entrepreneurs with a platform to retail goods and services, without the burden of bricks and mortar leases, operational overheads and other major costs associated with a physical store.

But while the popularity of online shopping has soared over the past few years, the value of an offline presence hasn't diminished. In fact, it's more important than ever. Here's why:

1. Engage and connect Online browsers have notoriously short attention spans. In between getting distracted by advertising, and the fact that a few clicks of the mouse can land you on a different webpage in a matter of seconds, it's hard to convert online consumers. In comparison, tangible stores engage browsers with visuals, touch, sound, smell and a sense of corporeality.

2. Attract new customers The online retail landscape is inundated with retailers. This can make it hard to attract online browsers, as they're literally spoiled for choice. With an offline presence, brands can attract new customers in the real world, and then continue to engage with them in the online landscape. For example, a pop-up store in central London can attract the attention of thousands of potential customers. They engage with your brand on a physical level, and are then encouraged to actively continue this engagement online.

3. Raise brand profile and reputation A bricks and mortar store goes hand in hand with a heightened reputation. Despite the short-lived nature of pop-ups, transitory stores are a fantastic way to embed your brand with a sense of establishment and validation. While a permanent store may not be a reality for your SME, the flexibility and convenience of pop-ups means an offline presence is absolutely attainable.

Related: Brick And Mortar Startup Garden Worx Is All About Growth

Shahzad Bhatti

Founder and Owner, The Co- Dubai

Shahzad Bhatti is the founder and owner of The Co- Dubai, a co-working space and one of the first small business accelerators to be certified by Dubai SME. 


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