Lessons from China on how to successfully bring online experiences to offline world
Not so long ago, everything worked purely offline, be it commerce, shopping, or finding friends. But times have changed and how, with people embracing an intersection of online experiences with the offline world. What is now called the online-to-offline (O2O) revolution.
Quite simply, O2O brings the ease and convenience of the digital world to brick-and-mortar stores, and aims to elevate customer experience in the offline world. And if there is one country that is way ahead of the rest of the world in the O2O game, it is China.
Back in 2016, Jack Ma, the Founder of China's ecommerce giant Alibaba, stated that O2O was indeed the way forward. Today, most users in China shop for their groceries from a supermarket right from their smartphone instead of stepping out.
And it is not just ecommerce. Anshumani Ruddra, the VP of Product for Sports, Social and Gaming at Hotstar, says,
"Along with ecommerce, other Chinese industries have also followed suit where they are really merging the things that really work in the online world into the offline realm."
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O2O in the Chinese restaurant industry
Big restaurants in Beijing have come up with an innovative way to retain their customers. It is a universal fact that restaurant goers do not like to wait around to get a seat at the table. At popular restaurants, you either have to make a booking beforehand or wait for a solid 20-30 minutes to get seated if you arrive without reservations. To address this, famed brands of the Beijing restaurant industry are bringing the online experience into their offline waiting phase.
Patrons waiting their turn usually browse their phone or play games on it. The Chinese restaurants are using that same fascination to hold on to their customers at their offline stores.
In many restaurants, you will find that there is a giant screen in the waiting area with an online multiplayer game uploaded. Waiting customers can connect to this game with the help of their smartphones, join the leaderboard, and compete with one another.
There are even offers that the winner of the game gets a free meal, and that is how every customer who is asked to wait for a table is actually waiting without walking out.
The VivoLab at Shenzhen
Chinese smartphone brand Vivo wanted to show its customers they are the camera experts in the industry right at its retail stores. Thus came the immersive centre, called VivoLab, which gives customers a futuristic light display when they walk into a store. By applying real-time interactive projection, Vivo creates silhouettes, pulsating lights as per the customer’s dress colours, orbs of floating lights, and interactive sound sculptures.
The lab also provides information on the history of cameras to visiting customers and allows them to snap selfies with instant image effects and filters. The idea here is to give Vivo’s customers a feel of their camera expertise right at the retail store. They can experience the advanced technology in the offline space with the help of online technology.
Auto vending machines
Recall the experience you have when shopping online. Alibaba is bringing that same model to the Chinese auto industry. This concept allows a buyer to use an app to go through the list of available cars instead of visiting multiple car dealerships and scanning several cars before buying one.
Then, the buyer can pick the model they want to test drive, visit an unmanned structure with all the cars in place, select a vehicle for a test drive, and book an appointment with an offline dealer. The core processes of buying a new car remain the same. But now, the convenience of shopping online is available with offline car dealerships as well.
...and it is everywhere in China
The online-offline partnership is visible in malls, public waiting areas like bus stops, on train rides, etc. It is said that the Chinese are at least two years ahead of the rest of the world in the O2O technology adoption. The world is sure to catch on to the trend as bits of it are visible in a few Indian stores as well.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)