With online-only businesses exploding in popularity while more high street shops go bump in the night, we are left wondering whether the debate surrounding eCommerce as the killer of the high street has any more weight. Read on to find out why this is far from the truth…
There have been many stories in recent years surrounding business closures due to a lack of foresight in the ever-changing world of commerce. Such closes have meant article after article about how eCommerce and mCommerce are slowly killing off the brick and mortar stores which have been such icons of our high streets throughout our lives, but surely it is not such a cut and dry case.
There are many factors which lead to the closing of physical stores, and it is true that the rise in online purchasing is playing a huge part in future business strategies of retail empires. However, critics need to start focussing on how eCommerce can benefit brick and mortar stores, and even play a part in saving them.
While in-store sales continue to reel-in the larger sales figures for now, the gradual change in buyer habits towards the convenience of eCommerce is something which cannot be ignored, and will have a significant impact on how we view commerce in general as technology in this area advances. Instead, we must transform the way we use brick and mortar stores and take full advantage of the trends we can already observe in the marketplace today, particularly how the user interacts with them as part of their online experience.
If we re-think the way in which we guide the customer to the sale by creating the right connection between online and offline, eCommerce could save the high street.
New Ways To Shop
‘Me-tailing’ and ‘me-commerce’ are the two latest terms to hit the market in the retail sector. They refer to a customer that is self-orientated, self-assured and who looks for specific items when they go to a store. They are prone to show-rooming and usually don’t complete a purchase without extensive research into whether it will serve their purpose (comparing it to other models), whether it is of good quality (looking at customer reviews for that manufacturer and model, as well as cross-referencing this with social media), and whether it is the cheapest price (can I get this for less on Amazon?).
Companies need to start looking at the ways in which their brick and mortar equivalent can enhance the user experience and engage with this type of consumer. Does your brand maintain consistency across virtual and physical outlets? Does your brand credibility transcend those barriers too? Do your staff know how to engage with this kind of customer?
Another term making the rounds which you may have heard of is ‘SoLoMo’ – in other words, social, local and mobile combined can lead to a much healthier future for your business. How? Well, more and more companies are seeing social media as a means of connecting directly with the customer, whether that’s to address complaints or respond to questions. Local refers more to the geo-location marketing which is slowly edging up in importance, and will do even more so if wearables take off. Advertisements will be able to target these devices as and when they’re within a certain distance from a store, with promotions aimed at their online activity. Of course, mobile is proven to be changing the way people shop, so this has to be taken into consideration in any strategy.
What SoLoMo tries to achieve is a cohesive strategy across all your mediums of communication; what do you have in your store that connects customers to the online experience? Where can customers who have searched online find what they are looking for? Does their local store provide everything they need and expect? SoLoMo can help you bring your online and offline profiles together.
Aside from the obvious ways of improving the mobile compatibility of your site, you also have the ability to enhance the in-store experience and taking advantage of the customer’s enthusiasm for mobile, rather than shying away from it. Are there any promotions you can run in store which are focussed on social media engagement, such as competitions and participation incentives? Similarly, there are things which you can run on your online portals which require an in-store presence for them to find out more details. For example, you could run a competition which is promoted across all channels, but it requires downloading their app at your special station in-store – SoLoMo is all about approaching your business as one entity, not separate online and offline platforms.
Click & Collect functionality is another side to eCommerce which has been targeted, with some critics suggesting that perhaps what awaits the future of the high street is a string of depots. But Click & Collect is an incredible resource which retailers can use to their advantage. Again, we can use Click & Collect to upsell using stock that the customer can take away there and then. Help them to consider any extras they may need based on their online profile of recently viewed items, and improve their experience by offering free delivery to their local store and returns on the spot.
Retail will never die completely; people will still need to try clothing on before a purchase or check a piece of tech before they hand over the money, but to stop your brick and mortar from becoming just a showroom, you need to give the customer a reason for shopping in it, and a great way to do this is through your online profile.
In-store discounts can be included as part of email campaigns, competitions can be advertised, Click & Collect offers can be included – you need to adapt quickly to this online frenzy by transforming the traditional use of a physical store into something which joins seamlessly with your online platform.