Brick and mortar businesses are learning that the Internet is a powerful ally in perpetuating business.

Certainly most online buyers understand that many traditional stores also supply the ability to purchase online. In fact many stores will make the online store more inviting by either making purchases available with free shipping to the nearest store or by making certain items available only online. At least one retailer allows customers to select a variety of free products to try and then make them easily available in their retail outlets for those who connect with the product.

While this scenario is played out everyday online there is another form of connection between traditional business and the online environment.

Webkins, a company selling stuffed animals in traditional stores, has tapped into an incredible selling tool by creating an online environment for the owner of the stuffed animal. In essence when you give the gift of this stuffed animal toy the recipient also received a free one-year membership in this highly desired online destination.

Other companies have followed suit including the popular Build-A-Bear chain who debuted a beta version of their online community in 2007. Children who visit the brick and mortar storefront to build an animal are then able to connect with this exclusive online community for safe interaction as well as fun and learning.

These are examples of how already successful companies are expanding their desirability by making it possible for the purchase to have benefits that last long after the sale has been concluded.

Businesses are beginning to catch a glimpse that even a more direct hands on purchase can be enhanced with the premium of an online benefit.

Coffee shops and retail outlets invite customers to fill out an exclusive online survey that may include discounts, free services, free products or the potential for a cash award. This enables them to enhance list building opportunities and alert customers to their own online presence.

If this concept is gaining such a profound following in traditional retail why isn’t it being done more in online stores? The truth is online retailers pioneered the idea with free memberships with a purchase that allowed them to an online community forum or an ebook download. Customers might be given the opportunity to select a free product from the online store or choose from steep discounts on other merchandise.

Customers learned to look for value added features – online. Now that brick and mortar stores are making it possible for their customers to gain specific benefits online the buying public has come to look for businesses (on and off line) that can deliver a value added punch.

The value of the Internet cannot be ignored. This is a tool that enables business, but it also allows traditional business to extend a variety of benefits to new and existing customers.

By finding ways to appeal to a connected customer you can find greater opportunities to advance your business objectives while giving the customer more than a product and nothing less than your best.