Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Buying Offline, Virtually

So I was on my way to the airport and had about 30 minutes to spare. In need of a new book, I stopped into the closest bookstore (a Barnes & Nobles) and decided to treat the experience as an offline rendition of an online exercise. I marched straight to the help desk as if it were the search bar on the homepage. The friendly clerk found my book (Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger) within about 30 seconds and kindly asked me to follow him to Business Technology / Social Sciences bookracks. Hmmm…I never would have found this on my own…I pondered, following my searchers lead to the back of the store.

He whisked me past the coffee bar area, where a community of folks shared tables, presumably chatting about literature and noble worldly issues. Looked inviting, but I was on a mission. To the racks, my guide quickly located the book in my query, good fortune I thought, as he grabbed the last copy from the shelf. I viewed this book online at both Amazon and Borders.com, so recognized the cover in an instant. I thanked him for his help and briskly proceeded to the checkout. I weaved between the tables of discounted books as I navigated my way to the checkout counter.

The line was just long enough for me to pick up a strategically placed book near the point of sale, which I abandoned upon the startling “next” call and walked to the register. The clerk adeptly processed my transaction and without needing a bag, I was off and running. Not too dissimilar from an online experience, I was in and out of the store in just under 10 minutes. Off to the airport and nestled into my exit row, I was into chapter one. I tell you this because as much as online attempts to mirror offline, sometimes you can treat an offline experience with the blatant efficiency of an online transaction. Am I nuts or has this ever happened to you?

JupiterResearch Facts:
• 42% of all retail sales in 2008 will occur online or be influenced by the online channel.
• 71% of online buyers visit the site of purchase multiple times prior to purchasing.
• 56% of online buyers visited multiple different Web sites prior to purchasing.

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