Retailers’ worst fear is customers coming in store to browse, touch, feel and try, then leaving to go price hunting online – ultimately buying from an online retail competitor. Worse, and what brings retailers out in cold sweats is a customer standing right there in a heated, well lit, beautifully merchandised store and buying from someone else via their smartphone.
Dark days, and high pressure stuff in a world where we can bid and win on an item on eBay in less than the time it takes the Barista to serve up a latte, where Amazon delivers whatever, wherever, whenever at the stroke of a smartphone and where price savvy customers will seek out bargains online.
Even more alarming for off line retailers seeking to maximise the value of their floorspace are apps like RedLaser ( over 27million downloads), allowing customers to scan UPC codes and see if items are available nearby and at what price- there is literally nowhere for traditional retailers to hide.
Onmichannel retailing as it is called – selling via multiple on and offline channels is not all a race for the bottom. Getting digital sales channels right can enhance an in-store purchase too – in a great article on this stuff, MIT Sloane Management Review– cites examples of both sides of the coin. One of their stories is about a girl who can’t find what she wants in a shoe store, she is about to leave, when the assistant pulls out the ipad with other lines, more sizes to order and complementary accessories. The assistant helps the shopper get her dream shoes, delivered to her home.
Making the ‘digital transition’ to Omnichannel retailing is a necessity- the article has some excellent examples for retailers seeking to keep their customers and remain competitive. The ideas for retailers range from owning a niche, bundling, in-store exclusives, through to on /offline promotions and synergies. Interesting, they also note the gap between manufacturing and retailing getting smaller at the back end, and the importance of personalisation, use of data and analytics on the marketing /consumer front end. Fascinating – what happens to traditional publishers when Amazon is contracting with authors direct ?