It is undeniable that the online and digital world has changed the retail industry.
When the British Retail Consortium (BRC) released it’s recent report predicting as many as 900,000 fewer jobs by 2025 it was no surprise that the increase of automation and e-commerce was apportioned some of the blame. The digital revolution is continuing to reshape the retail industry and this article explores some of the key changes.
Whilst e-commerce may appear to be a simple and comparatively low cost solution for some, for many retailers the reverse is true. The “click and collect” functionality is expected by customers but can be expensive to maintain, particularly for retailers who run it alongside an increasingly expensive bricks and mortar presence.
The High Street experience is far from dead. For some the human contact and the ability to seek advice and see products in the flesh is vital but many will take that advice and choose to order online at home. Today’s customers have even higher expectations and integrating their demands digitally and in-store can be an expensive task.
This “omnichannel” approach to retail is one of the key ways in which online marketplaces are impacting retail. Consider the possibilities of the approach; on the way home from work Fred sees a post on Facebook on his phone from a friend raving about a new set of headphones. Fred clicks on the link to the company Facebook page for the retailer and from there clicks onto the retailers website.
When he gets home Fred uses his desktop to look in more detail at the different options available and finds a local store using the store locator facility. Fred visits the store, tries them out and asks questions about the best choice for him. He orders them in-store for delivery to his home and tracks the progress of his order using an app on his phone. The headphones arrive and Fred contacts the customer service team online with some queries via the chat function on the website before tweeting about how great his new headphones are.
This process isn’t an extreme example and some retailers who embrace the approach are benefitting from it.
Waitrose, for example, have a cohesive and integrated approach across their different brands and are continuing to develop the interaction between their products and services.
With a desktop and mobile website to purchase remotely and an app that allows you to scan and pay for your shopping in-store both of which are supported by customer focused employees online and in-store, Waitrose continue to lead the way in supermarket retail. The key is that Waitrose maintain consistency across all of their channels so their customers know what to expect.
It isn’t just large retailers that are affected by the changes in retail and smaller independents can also benefit from the changes in online marketplaces.
Urban Coffee Company in Birmingham, have an established social media presence which drives foot traffic to its stores and was the first coffee company in the UK to introduce click and collect for preordering coffee.
Despite being a small independent coffee shop they continue to expand and experiment with online capabilities to improve their customers experience including the introduction of Droplet for contactless ordering and payment.
An increase in online and digital marketplaces has also presented a unique opportunity for retailers as it has allowed them to really understand their audience through the collection of data. Data intelligence within retail means that retailers no longer have to rely on what they think their customers want because they know what they want. The collection and use of data allows retailers to understand who their customers are, how they spend and what is most likely to make them spend with you.
As online marketplaces continue to change the face of retail, both small and large retailers are presented with a number of different opportunities. How has it changed your retail business?