Bricks vs Clicks – Geometry Experiments at Christmas

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By Tom Moore, Head of Shopper & Amo de Villele, Business Director

Amazon has celebrated its biggest holiday season with customers shopping at record levels. Next has reported in-store takings down 6.1 percent, highlighting the relentless shift to online.

But take a breath:  Planet Retail reports that by 2022, physical retail will continue to account for 75 percent of all purchases.

Geometry Global UK decided to put the reality of shopping to the test this Christmas as the merits of online versus in-store were hotly debated. Two clear advocates emerged: Tom Moore, avid in-store enthusiast, and Amo de Villele, zealous digital shopper convert.

CEO Michelle Whelan challenged them both: prove the power of your convictions.  And so, Tom’s entire Christmas would be purchased in store. Amo would go digital only.

The rules of engagement? Each experience should be evaluated by three fundamental triggers that influence shopper behavior: inspire me; make it easy to shop, and provide a quality experience.

They discuss their findings…

Inspire me

TM: Online is great when you know what you’re looking for but flexibility fails on browsing all categories at a glance. Like many inept sons, buying for Mum is difficult so I set out to John Lewis for inspiration.  The magic began the minute I stepped in; Christmas gift items and homeware clustered together stirred imagination. I plumped for a pretty vase from the floral display, adding an accompanying flower arranging course.

AV: Online inspires too! And I desperately needed inspiration for my goddaughter. I entered “gift -twelve- year-old girl” and filtered results by budget. Simple and convenient – without the struggle into town, checkout queues and toddlers to be kept happy.

I found Social great Christmas inspiration. My wife and I created gift lists for each other, which helped my online searches. According to Pinterest, 87 percent of Pinners buy as result of Pinterest content.

TM: Turning to food… My in-store visit introduced exciting new seasonal products I hadn’t tried before – Prosecco ham, Christmas tree shaped pizzas, mince-pie donuts. As designated Chef, I chose just the right size of vegetables for the picture-perfect lunch.

Online : 4/5 stars

Physical stores : 4/5 stars

Make it easy to shop

AV: As a Frenchman, Christmas food shopping online was a first so I experimented with Whisk’s app.  What a delight.  I searched recipes and using the app’s functionality, added ingredients to a shopping list and supplemented with essentials like champagne! I hit a button, the list was sent to my retailer of choice, straight into my basket and delivered.  Inspiration and ease combined.

TM: Ah, consider the wonderful retail staff, a unique store offering. I needed a pair of trainers for a very particular niece. A quick briefing to a delightful member of staff for trainers “cool enough to party in but robust enough to last” and I was presented with the perfect pair, the right size and a warm smile.

Online : 5/5 stars

Physical stores : 4/5 stars

Provide a quality experience

TM: Is online truly a great experience for every purchase?  According to PWC’s 2017 Total Retail Report, music, movies & games is the only category where online delivers more sales than stores.

AV: Online is relatively new in retail. It’s innovating faster than offline – voice for one, a natural way to search.  AI powered tools are getting smarter and more knowledgeable with access to every available product. I ordered with Alexa the latest Call of Duty game for my little(ish) brother… while I was cooking dinner. Painless experience.

TM: But Amo, Christmas is about the Christmas spirit. And stores played to all our senses: Christmas music, tastes and smells with complimentary mulled wine and chocolates. Stores win hands down in delivering fun and joy.  John Lewis’ “Moz the Monster” Christmas campaign invited us to tickle Moz’s feet on store windows and make his legs swing up and down. Sheer delight. You don’t get that ordering from the sofa!

Online : 3/5 stars

Physical stores : 5/5 stars

Our Christmas challenge summary

Whilst physical stores topped in providing the best experience, neither format was perfect. The reality is that for most shoppers a combination proves best.  Based on our experiment, a few suggestions …

How online could learn from physical:

Content that engages the senses: This year Starbucks created an amazing Christmas that made us want to dive in one of their Merry seasonal recipes!

The power of humanity: just like Levi’s friendly new virtual assistant which combines AI powered search with real warmth.

How physical could learn from online:

Convenience: tap into quick search functionality. Rebecca Minkoff branches feature digital screens in windows, so customers can browse the range and purchase in-store or arrange delivery.

Personalisation: identify shoppers and make recommendations based on preference. Sales associates in Barneys’ New York all carry tablets with an integrated ‘client’ app that alerts them to frequent shoppers and recommends suitable products.

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