I can still recall in the late ‘90s and early 2000s when the rapid proliferation of ecommerce into our lives had retailers, with massive investments in real estate, shaking in their proverbial penny-loafers. Fast forward almost two decades and I don’t think it’s completely clear yet who won between retail and ecommerce.
One thing is clear, though, regardless of who lost or is losing, the consumer wins. We now have access to so many choices, we can price and feature compare before we buy. If we don’t mind waiting a day or two for something to ship, we might save a few dollars. If we want it right now, we might be paying a little more. Either way, we know what the trade-off is.
So, even though it’s been nearly twenty years in the making, this economy and way of shopping is still relatively new and that means a couple of things for brands dealing with this reality.
- Integrate your online and offline businesses
- Showroom yourself
- Amazon & Walmart are NOT the enemy
Nothing tells a customer that you don’t care about them faster than having inconsistent pricing between retail and ecommerce. Sure, that’s an operational thing you’re working on. Or, maybe your two divisions have separate P&L responsibilities.
Your customer doesn’t care. All they see is that the brand was trying to pull a fast one at worst or that your brand is disorganized at best.
I’ve heard it over and over from retail brands I’ve worked with. “I hate showrooming. It’s destroying my business.” Showrooming, by the way, is when a customer price shops your product online before buying it in the store.
The reality is that consumers don’t have to pay more. They have choices. So, if you’re not priced competitively or you don’t have some other value-add to justify a higher price, you’re going to lose. I recommend showrooming yourself constantly so that you can adjust accordingly.
Many brands have a tenuous relationship with these two. Both either set brands’ prices or completely disregard MAP pricing completely. They do that because they are singularly focused on providing the absolute lowest prices, broadest choices and easiest transactions possible. As a result, they both hold special places in the hearts and minds of customers.
Rather than dislike them, learn from them. Being laser-focused on things customers care about will pay you back, regardless of ecommerce or bricks and mortar.
The future relationship between ecommerce and bricks and mortar is still evolving. Even with some of the most iconic stores shuttering their flagship 5th Avenue locations, retail shopping will still hold an important place in customer’s lives.
The retailers who seem to be thriving are ones who have something niche or provide a unique shopping experience. REI, for example, does both. They know who they are, they know who their customers are and they have a dividend program that prompts people to shop with them. They also provide a unique shopping experience through their associates’ category expertise, classes and store layout.
Both as a consumer and a marketer, I am excited about where things are going. I think the brands who will own a space in the future are those who spend their time taking this journey with their customers instead of trying to find ways to keep customers shopping the way they always have.