Research, purchase online and last-mile offering can save retail

By adopting strategies around ROPO (Research Online, Purchase Offline), retailers can incorporate a strong e-commerce offer into their stores. This offer would not only lead to complete the purchase, but also serve as a platform for distributing purchases.

This was the observation of Phil Chapman, director of retail lease consultancy Lease1, after the rise of ROPO in Australia has lead to the increasing possibility that today’s brick-and-mortar businesses can survive better as e-commerce distribution centres.

One can already see the signs as the nation’s most recognisable store brands are rapidly adapting more innovative business models that leverage both online and offline presence. And on top of that, many of them are also seizing the opportunity presented by established customer loyalty and the demand for better experience in last-mile delivery.

Woolworths and Coles are two well-known examples, offering more convenient delivery options for customers that still have much love for their brands. Meanwhile, their stores will remain both as places to shop and as points of delivery and pickups for e-commerce support.

The timing of this shift arguably couldn’t be better. Australia’s local retail corporations are facing immense pressure from the arrival of large, international brands that are also bringing online presence as part of their arsenal.

It also brings to light the unique fulfilment experience sought out by the nation’s consumers, who have been found to prefer a combined approach to offline and online purchases. Perhaps it can be said that they still have some fondness for familiar brands and the shopping experience that comes with them. But at the same time, there doubtlessly strong need for better delivery and better access to product information that lead to faster buying purchases.

Despite the domination of pure e-commerce and the innovations in digital retail, the last-mile remains to be a hurdle for online shoppers around the world. Retailers who seek to challenge the dominance of major online brands could have a better fighting chance if they worked to address this deficiency and use their store presence as the ideal means of distribution.

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