EDITORIAL The proof of the store pudding is in the marketplace

By Paul Skeldon December 9, 2018 - 12:10 pm

Shopping has shifted beyond recognition in 2018 and this Christmas is the proof of the pudding, to seasonally mix a metaphor.

Black Friday and the resulting Peak run up to Christmas has cemented once and for all that shoppers are online (and on mobile), rather than heading in-stores. As a committed online shopper, driven to click rather than traipse, I am glad my fellow man has seen the light – but what does that mean for retailers?

The inevitable move to the web isn’t a surprise. The range that is now available and the ability to have it delivered almost immediately makes it now more compelling than heading into a store.

The convenience of mobile is also thrusting online retail further into the public consciousness, with now more than a quarter of total consumer spending taking place on mobile devices.

Marketplaces – Amazon in particular – are also driving this shift, with a quarter of all UK online sales now coming from that particular place. What is more, some 19% of people who visited Amazon over Black Friday, as an example, bought something – that is a heck of a conversion rate.

All this shows just how digital shoppers are, but what it really reveals, I think, is just how out of date shops have become. The shoppers are digital, the shops aren’t.

And this, I feel, is a huge opportunity rather than a massive threat to many retailers. The counter-argument around Black Friday and Peak shopping stats is that stores do still figure in the purchase journey. While 57% of Peak sales are online, 43% are in a store. That isn’t far off half and this isn’t referendum so it carries some weight, surely?

The key is to look at how online, mobile and stores work together. Already consumers themselves are fashioning their own retail paradigm that brings the three together: researching online, looking-and-feeling in-store, buying from cheapest provider/Amazon on mobile. Rather than fight it, retailers need to embrace it.

Where does Amazon fit in to this? Well, it is opening its own Go stores and is setting up pop-ups all over the place in the run up to Christmas – further proof that in-store isn’t dead – but that is just the start. Retailers are being forced to add marketplace selling to their roster of channels: those with physical stores need to work the marketplace into their store. The easiest step is as a collection point, but that is just the start. I long to see stores where not is stock items, or buy similar or whatever have you is available on my mobile as I stand there unable to find what I want in my size.

Of course, no one wants to open up their aisles to a competitor, but why not sell all your range on Amazon and use that as a way to augment a store. It certainly would get people through the door to see and feel and buy. It also closes the circle with that initial idea of being a pick up point.

This is just one ‘crazy’ idea and many of you reading this may consider me to be a retail heretic, but it will be through mad ideas like this that some retailers will resurrect their stores, boost their online sales and, most importantly, offer consumers what they want, not what retailers want them to want.

So, it should be a Happy New Year for retailers really: much like the political situation in the UK, we are in a state of flux, but out of that will come new ways of doing things, they just have to be the things shoppers want to do.

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