Kogan’s prank a lesson – don’t ignore offline

April Fools’ Day – it always gets someone.

I must admit, I was caught myself a few times when I woke and started reading my Twitter feed. Suffice to say, I turned it off.

But The Australian wasn’t so lucky, republishing a story based on a press release from tech entrepreneur and notoriously cheeky marketing presence Ruslan Kogan. The release said he would be opening a retail store in Chadstone.

Anyone who’s paid five seconds’ worth of attention to Kogan knows he’s not likely to do such a thing – ever – but no matter. It’s a funny story, but we should not be so quick to judge – everyone falls prey to an April Fools’ joke at some time.

Yet there is a hint of wisdom in Kogan’s goof strategy, and he shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the idea.

Although the push to online is unstoppable and any business not doing so is definitely missing out on business, the importance of a multi-channel approach can’t be understated. We’ve seen plenty of bricks-and-mortar retailers heading online and doing a fairly good job of it. But there are plenty of online businesses doing just as well by exploring the power of a traditional physical store.

Etsy, the online craft marketplace, is doing extremely well. Yet it recently opened a storefront in Australia, and has done so in the United States as well for holidays, experimenting with the form. eBay has done the same, and in the United States an online-only division of GAP opened storefronts last year.

Australian businesses are following suit. Recently, online start-up Shoes of Prey teamed with David Jones to create a physical presence in one of its Sydney stores. Shoppers can sit down on a couch, play with a tablet and design their own shoes. It’s a great idea.

Because for all the talk online retailers do about the power of online – which is completely true – it’s not as if physical stores have lost their power. If this was true, department stores would already be dead. They aren’t. There is still power in having a physical presence and being able to show your products to passers-by.

Clearly the physical store isn’t the dominant channel it once was, and not every digital shop should just go out and set up a place on Pitt Street. But to deny the power of bricks and mortar is simply cutting yourself off from a channel which could benefit you.

Bricks and mortar is never going away. Don’t ignore it.

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