‘Online-To-Offline’ (O2O) refers to a growing trend in e-commerce that sees customers from online channels being connected with physical spaces. This is counter to the fears that traditional retailers have been harboring about their lack of relevance in a digital market. Nowadays, companies can successfully leverage an online and offline presence if they treat the two channels as complementary rather than competition.

It works because ultimately, people want to connect in real life – chat rooms or e-commerce platforms simply don’t cut it when it comes to experiences. People expect more. They want an experience they can’t get when they’re sitting in front of the computer, at home in their pyjamas. So why not join the dots?

The O2O phenomenon can be seen among private members’ clubs, with proprietary apps offering exclusive access to groups and chatrooms in the digital world, as well as in the real world. In a physical sense, the attraction of private clubs has a long history, having been formed in the late 17thcentury. Traditionally they were open to members of the aristocracy (gentlemen only), however nowadays they’re typically more cosmopolitan, “courting women members and seeking creative members for an edgy atmosphere.”

One element of tradition that they continue to retain and share is the promise of exclusivity. For example, when The Groucho Club was established its membership committee selected members according to two simple ‘rules’: “The applicant would have to be proposed and seconded by two members ‘in good standing’. The other being; does anyone know this person and would you like them sitting next to you at the bar?”

But it’s not just about being surrounded by like-minded people. These days, private clubs like SoHo House offer socializing, networking and office space. Work spaces are precisely that, but “their real product isn’t so much an office as it is interconnection, a sense of belonging.” In a physical sense, Kyle Chayka notes in the Pacific Standard that these spaces are “a kind of real-life Facebook, where all your friends hang out, but with pools and free cocktail hours.” Camaraderie is important, and will continue to be important, in physical spaces and on digital channels alike.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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