When a retail giant like Penny’s, whose market strategy has traditionally been pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap, suddenly takes a leap into the eCommerce arena, you know there has to be something to this online retailing.
From Tesco to Amazon, these massive retailers have recognised a shift in consumer behaviour. Customers no longer have the luxury of an hour for lunch with which to wander around the shops or time after work with which to do the grocery shopping. Nowadays lunch invariably consists of a hastily inhaled sandwich while manning the phone-lines and absorbing the latest updates through social media platforms, while grocery shopping is ordered sitting in traffic dreaming of dinner but making your way to the gym instead. Retailers have to fit into this new fast paced world to prosper. The manner with which they do this will be the difference between making enough to put bread on the table, or, making so much they manage to give the whole family gout.
A company could be fortunate, like An Post, where this tidal wave of change carries them from one era to another seamlessly; as snail-mail dies a death, parcel delivery from online purchasing has increased dramatically, and looks set to continue into the future. Postmen are no longer shoving unwanted bills into spider infested post-boxes, but rather are more akin to Santa’s elves asking people to sign for little parcels of joy.
However, if you are not so fortunate, you must then be a little creative.
Online shopping offers the small and agile retailer a chance to reach the hearts and minds of their customers, and through that, their wallets. There have been leaders in this charge; C&A allowing the number of virtual likes to be shown above the product in their physical stores, Urban Hitlon Weiner giving credit to customers for posting selfies, Kate Spade creating a digital storefront. These strategies take advantage of activities in which their customers are already engaged and capitalise on them. They convert product interaction into purchase opportunity, turning the passive consumer into an engaged advocate.
All around us the traditional tools of retail are being adapted and modernised. “Customers who purchase this item also purchased…” has become the online version of sweets at the till. “Share this purchase” is the online equivalent of parading the bargain you picked up at lunch to your co-workers. “What other customers are looking at right now..” induces the same panic of a half empty shelf holding this Christmas’ must-have item.
Communication is moving forward, and retail is moving with it. The new era holds untold opportunity to those who embrace it, ask HMV what happens to those who don’t.