Learnings from Leaders: The Fine Line between Online and Offline Strategies in Retail

A recent event, “The Edge between Online and Offline, China Retail Focus,” sponsored by the China-Italy Chamber of Commerce (CICC) and the Swiss Chinese Chamber of Commerce in China (SwissCham China) uncovered important marketing strategies for brands in today’s disruptive times.

According to industry leaders – Mauro De Felip (General Manager of Ferrero China), Mauro Maggioni (Asia Pacific CEO of Golden Goose), Alfonso Troisi (Greater China Business Executive Officer of Nestlè Nespresso) and Nicky Wang (Managing Director & Head of Strategy WE Red Bridge) – retail brands must continuously evolve their online and offline strategies or risk losing.

 

Recognizing that the shift to digital has accelerated brand awareness in the retail industry, essentially B2C, these executives shared their views on how to keep up with the rapid and significant changes based on their different types of businesses to help ensure success.

 

Here are the key takeaways from the discussion.

 

  • There has been a great deal of innovation in digitization in the last year, and because of the pandemic, there has been mass level adoption. While digital strategies have contributed to a brand’s success in China, keeping up with its progression and evolution is essential to move businesses forward. Despite the fast change, the one constant is that customers are most important and it is essential to know your target audience.

 

  • The direct to consumer business model is universal, yet it is influenced by each brand’s specific business model, philosophy, and principles. As a result, digital transformation is seeded in the DNA of each company.

 

  • While some brands are more traditional and focus predominantly on their offline business, they cannot overlook online efforts. It is important that online business activities complement a brand’s existing retail.

 

  • A common dilemma for many brands is replicating the offline experience for consumers into the digital environment. However, by embracing digital, new ways of doing business and meeting consumers’ needs are discovered. For example, promoting occasions digitally can be easier than promoting them offline and provide more opportunity to engage with consumers.

 

  • Digital can be more efficient in terms of selling and reaching the general trade environment. Online stores can be set up quicker, especially in collaboration with e-commerce players. While the platform plays an important role, customer experience and satisfaction must be the end result. Consumers have become savvy shoppers and will make comparisons.

 

  • Because digitalization has transformed the landscape so significantly, brands may need to reshape some of their retail offerings to support online business as well as modify the business they are doing offline. The solution is to ensure agility and flexibility in both online and offline strategies.

 

  • While retail offline has the factor of human touch that does not transfer online, technology can help with the overall experience. Digitalization has already been included in the offline customer journey, but it involves staff that sells. The key is to mesh the human touch with technology. For instance, live streaming can provide support similar to sales staff in stores. Most important is leveraging brand content, going where consumers are, and controlling what happens.

 

  • Supporting localization approaches can be challenging, especially catering to consumers shopping online and via mobile, and making the retail experience in stores different. Due to changes in consumers’ lifestyles and increased competition, execution, and ensuring an understanding of all products and services is critical. Packaging, personalization, and promotion can all have a significant impact.

 

  • Pricing strategies should not be compromised. Whether offline or online, brands need to have a commercial policy that makes sense and stands for the long term. Consistency is essential as both online and offline businesses can change drastically, and new products and new consumers can pop up today or tomorrow.

 

  • Viewing the brand as a system, people and technology must work together. Data can connect online and offline, helping to interact with consumers wherever they are. AI-driven tools are effective to continuously manage chats with customers, identify learnings, and improve future interactions.

 

Clearly, the retail environment is experiencing a big transformation, partially driven by digital distractions. For brands, the future will continue to be an integration of offline and online business. Modifying business models and having strategies for both will provide a more holistic approach. Brands that are flexible and able to adapt to the changing environment will do well. For assistance with online and offline marketing strategies to achieve success in China, contact us.