The Evolving World of Retail
The holiday season is in full force, and everyone is making their list and checking it twice. American Thanksgiving is the kick off to the holiday shopping season, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday making sales records year after year.
More and more, people are doing their holiday shopping from the comfort of their own home. The fireplace is on – maybe they’re sipping a cup of tea, or a glass of wine – their dog is at their feet. Compare that to going out in the cold (at least where I live!), fighting for a parking spot, dealing with crowds, and so forth.
With all the success that online retailers like Amazon have had, do bricks + mortar stores still have a chance?
In my opinion, they do. However, they do have to do things a little differently in today’s world.
If you have a bricks + mortar store, there must be some elements present to give you a shot at success. If they’re not, you are operating at a big disadvantage and it’s a race to the bottom with door crasher specials that erode your profits.
- Shopper Experience – I am not just speaking about the appearance of the store. Today, to get people to go to malls and stores, a clean modern aesthetic is table stakes. You need more. The movement is for a full-on shopper / guest experiences akin to the personalized services the hotel industry gives their guests. Knowledgeable staff basically need to be shopping consultants for them to give you good advice. Malls are turning into full on entertainment mecca’s. You go shop. Then you grab some dinner at a good restaurant (not a greasy fast-food joint in the food court), and then maybe you go ice-skating, or go to a movie. All of this is part of the shopper experience. But if you’re not in a mall, you can still provide great shopper experience. Maybe you hand a warm cup of hot chocolate out to your patrons when they come into your store. Maybe the store smells like chestnuts roasting on an open fire (I bet there is a candle that smells like that)! Get creative.
- Location & Convenience – this still matters. Are you really going to drive across the city to go buy a present? Maybe if it is a very specialized item, but likely not. Choose your physical location very carefully and don’t forget about things like parking and other elements of convenience. For example, there is a very cool, trendy shopping area in my city. I love some of the stores, but parking is an absolute nightmare, so I avoid it like the plague.
- Good Value – is still important. Most of us have a budget we need to stick to. We are looking for good value when we shop. If you’re selling an item at a premium price, the quality must be there, naturally, but so does the other aforementioned things like the shopper’s experience.
The Same List is Relevant for E-Commerce, Too!
If your website has a lousy user experience, confusing information about shipping & handling, or if online guests perceive that they are not getting good value for their dollar, you will have a lot of abandoned shopping carts.
Online payment processing also scares some off. While there is excellent SSL software on e-commerce store sites, hackers are always going to hack. You may never know when your credit card and other personal information is going to get compromised.
E-Commerce also adds another variable to the mix; couriers and mail delivery. If you’re a last-minute shopper, e-commerce is not your friend, especially with the holidays around the corner! Even if you’re prepared and do your online shopping early, you may encounter an experience with a porch thief. This is a thing and unfortunately, it is becoming more and more of a common problem. People drive around looking for packages on front steps and porches and steal them.
Retail is not dead, but it is changing. It’s not that e-commerce has hurt traditional retail on its own, though. Any technological advancement in any sector is born out of the fact that it is, in some way, improving or fixing a problem that already exists.
A well-known example is the musing that Netflix did not kill Blockbuster… Blockbuster killed Blockbuster by having ludicrous late fees, long line-ups, lousy customer service, and a leadership team that became complacent. Not only did Blockbuster struggle to enhance the company in this area, but the technological changes that were occurring didn’t allow Blockbuster to restructure the company as the rest of the world moved from VHS and DVD, to digital download or streaming sites like Netflix. Netflix was a convenient, easy, convenient alternative. It was better.
For traditional retail to continue to thrive or even exist, it must evolve. For people to get in their cars, deal with traffic, and fight for parking, retailers must give them a good reason to. Investing in shopper/guest experience is a must, as is location, convenience and overall value.
Let’s face it, e-commerce is here and it’s not going away, but it is not perfect either. Retailers still have a place in this world!