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Trend Prediction 2015: Offline To Online (O2O) With the web becoming a significant interface for offline transactions, the complex e-commerce space is witnessing a shift to more fluid and horizontal networked entities.

By Dr. Kieran Mervyn

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Although it's tricky significant interface for enables the evolution of to predict future trends within the e-commerce field due to the speed and development of mobile information systems, digital business infrastructures, mobile data terminals and enterprise business models, the rise of Offline to Online (O2O) Platform Designers is worthy of consideration because the web is becoming a significant interface for offline transactions.

The complex e-commerce space is witnessing a shift to more fluid and horizontal networked entities, allowing for reduced risk and greater sharing of knowledge and intelligence both internally and externally. Simultaneously, the scope of innovation is expanding, and open innovation provides access to new knowledge and enables the evolution of new strategies that keep firms agile and able to respond to opportunities. Designers of unique O2O user experiences are focusing on the process of e-bonding with customers before they navigate into the physical realm of stores to purchase offline products and services.

O2O designers also focus on overseeing the post-purchase customer relationship. This is a complex socio-technical endeavor underpinned by innovative technologies, big data, creative planning, collaborative networking, implementation and evaluation. O2O firms and collaborations encompass a range of scales. Some of the smaller O2O services delivered are growing in popularity in conjunction with the spread of apps and e-transactions. For example, Wasselni, a Palestinian startup for local transportation, is using offline and lo-fi models to overcome the lack of 3G communication technologies and the blockade of Gaza.

O2O strategies are also being developed and implemented by large firms, thereby enabling the attraction of a wider and deeper customer base and hence greater revenues. Chinese B2C retailers such as Yiwugoui.com and JD.com, Inc. are at the forefront of O2O. Yiwugou.com, an e-version of the company's large physical store network, is broadening its brand recognition and increasing daily traffic through a carefully adopted strategy that includes building one virtual store per offline shop. Using 3D imagery, each website is a replica of its offline stores. It also follows a long-term domestic and global partnership strategy, seeking to combine the e-commerce market across micro and macro contextual levels.


JD.com, a network of convenience stores boasting 25 million customers and 6,000 national suppliers, is creating e-stores on the central JD.com e-commerce platform. Its O2O strategy allows any of its growing customer bases simply to collect goods from online orders from any store nationwide. Its innovative delivery platform also includes fast free delivery, ranging from 15 minutes to an hour after purchase depending on the service. Conventional retailers will have a greater O2O capacity to integrate a whole-systems model of the customer life cycle. The continuum of the O2O model extends into post-sales services: online customer issues associated with returns or faults can be addressed in the physical stores. Significant commercial gains can thus be accrued by embracing a whole-systems O2O perspective.

Mobile data platforms such as tablet computing devices, smartphones and e-books have blended with cloud-based services to provide richer user experiences and innovative service models. The O2O service model provides fertile ground in which customers and potential customers can engage with service providers in a variety of mobile information platforms, both online and offline.

Put It to Work: Actionable Advice

  • To satisfy the end user's growing interest in compelling, engaging and interactive retail spaces and beyond, e-commerce designers employed by retailers must seek novel ways to maintain the current customer base and attract new customers in an aggressive global marketplace. This is important for customer satisfaction and retention.
  • Designers must identify new ways of translating product information and communicating enticements. Don't rely on internal expertise; instead, seek knowledge and intelligence beyond the confines of traditional silos normally associated with closed innovation and a firm's private research and development practices. Considering that business survival rates are highest among firms engaged in innovation practices, it is essential for designers to ensure that customer buy-in and input take centre stage from day one.
  • Designers and service providers must focus on a range of components such as the physical interface via innovative prototyping techniques, real-time communication and enacting ideas in the real world before evaluating their effects. Planning, management and evaluation of the underlying logistics and information platform will be a continuing challenge.
  • Retailers must embrace social media with a robust strategy to promote products and services in online settings in order to generate offline sales. For example, digital coupons can be embedded into offline points of sales (POS) and mobile payment through external QR codes.
Dr. Kieran Mervyn currently teaches courses in leadership in the online MBA program at the University of Roehampton, London. He is the leader for the Learning and Leading in a Dynamic Era module, where Roehampton Online students examine skills and best practices relating to leadership in contemporary organizations. He is also co-director of AM2 Partners Ltd, a focused team of management and research consultants.
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