Chris Morley was a retail entrepreneur before moving online in 2007. His experience in both spheres has highlighted the similarities between them, reinforcing the idea that ‘retail is retail is retail’.
In the previous instalment, I discussed the fact that most sales will come from a small number of items. It therefore seems appropriate that we now discuss the issue of ‘dead stock’ and what can be done with it.
Back in the day we would drop price, drop price, drop price and then give to an item to charity – or bin it. The space the stock occupied was too valuable for us to lose tied up to items that weren’t selling. More and more often we saw bigger chains and brands utilise reverse logistics, factory outlets and the modern marvel, Catch of the Day.
Typically the old fashioned “move it or lose it” idea still applies when comparing online sellers to the traditional. Storage space is valuable, so try whatever method you can to move that stock; bundle it together with other items, offer it at heavily reduced prices, give it away with shipped items as a free gift; and if all else fails, attempt to sell it in bulk to Catch of the Day or one of the similar online operations.
In some cases, businesses are able to look to sell the stock in other locations, taking advantage of seasons. When we first went online in 2007, we sold UV swimming gear to the UK in our winter; we weren’t the cheapest but we offered an item in demand.
The concept of dead stock and taking advantage of this has lead to numerous business successes – so it is possible to still end up with a positive result.
Which items get the best real estate in the store is a difficult decision to make – the best sellers, combined with some fast moving items, and a discounted item in plain sight used to be a pretty good rule for us. As was having up-sells close by.
Flowing on from this idea of ensuring that items are easily seen by consumers is the need to have a store that is easy to navigate, allows for customers to pick up items easily, a store that captivates and engages them. Hence music, lighting etc. Store layout for bricks-and-mortar is crucial and certainly not something that can be skimped on.
The same is true for online. With many of the same principles applying, easy to navigate, present best-sellers, easy search of items, placing up-sells near items, displaying enough items above the fold (in plain view). Store layout (while no one actually ‘walks’ through your online store) might exhibit the most connectivity with the old to the new way of retail. Having said that, it is odd then that many sites of those traditional retailers have got this so wrong online.
Presentation of Items
With particular reference to fashion, this entails ensuring that the mannequin in store is covered with complimentary clothing, accessories and that these items are readily available in-store.
Presentation also extends to shop windows; which items are there, how are they presented? All of this presentation is going to affect the purchasers’ ‘gut feel’ towards your brand. Do you hang clothes on racks? Do you have them folded in compartments? No matter what you are selling, the presentation of this item is so crucial for retailers and this is something they typically are very very good at. It is somewhat surprising that recent experience of traditional sellers moving online has not allowed this presentation understanding to shine through.
This is perhaps the area of which online retailers can improve the most. If we stay with our particular focus on fashion, we can use the example of how to improve the presentation of a jumper we are selling online. We would start by showing the complete look – making the pants, shoes, shirt etc. also available for purchase from the item page.
This requires significant effort, however the benefits will be incredible for any business. To be able to present your shoppers with a look is one thing – to make it able to add to their cart easily from one page is another.
The presentation at front-of-shop is similar to one’s homepage and again is an area where many mistakes are made. Overly complicated home pages, valuable real estate taken up by items not for sale, not enough calls to action, bright distracting colours or fonts dragging the consumers eyes away from buying – these errors in design can all be modified and rectified on numerous home pages.
This is another of the categories that apply to both on and offline retail. Obviously in the traditional sense, owners need to maintain their store in a working and safe order for the shoppers, and this is the same for online.
Site maintenance is crucial and must be budgeted for by all online vendors, and included in this is safety – while traditionally safety might be more for trips, falls, slips etc., when online it translates to a focus on transaction and data security, as well as maintaining general site safety from potentially nasty external threats.