The Changing Nature of Retail

With retail forecasts facing a grim outlook, many predictions are being made about the future the retail.

Some onlookers paint a very doom and gloom outlook, while other savvier retailers see a silver lining and are starting to leverage their retail footprint to drive growth in changing conditions.

While many retailers can attest to a decline in footfall in recent years and some may attribute this to the death of retail, others see this as a change in consumer behaviour.

A Shift in Shopping

In the early days of online retail, eCommerce was primarily about convenience shopping for commodity items while traditional retail was more geared towards discovering new products. These days, it’s a different story.

According to Mark Teperson, Chief Digital Officer of the Accent Group, ‘we’re seeing a huge shift in consumer behaviour. There’s no doubt footfall to malls is down, but retail sales are certainly still positive.’

From Teperson’s perspective, the decline in visitation doesn’t represent the death of retail, but rather, a fundamental shift toward discovery shopping. Where shoppers used to hit the stores searching for new products, that process now happens online. So when customers do head instore, they’ve done their research, and they know what they want.

In Teperson’s experience, ‘there’s less browsing being done in stores, so when consumers do come into physical retail, they come with higher expectations to purchase. So for retailers with an online presence who are analysing their footfall, I would be surprised if they weren’t seeing an upward trend in conversion, but a downward trend in foot traffic.’

New Opportunities

The shift towards discovery shopping is creating new opportunities for retailers to capture the intent of the customer further up the funnel. If consumers are using the internet to research their options, retailers have an opportunity to win the customer over early in their consumer journey. For example, if a potential customer were looking to buy a pair of shoes, they would do their research online, find a local retailer with a great range and plenty of stock, then head in store. But it’s at this point that the in-store experience can be a deal breaker; to avoid turning customers off, retailers need to pay as much attention to their in-store experience as they do online.

Consider this scenario: a customer researching a product or service finds your website and sees you have what they’re after. They spend 20 minutes travelling to your shop, find parking and arrive in-store only to discover the product isn’t available. At that point, they’re probably not going to purchase the product from your brand online; they’re going elsewhere.

Retailers that rely on foot traffic to drive sales need to pay close attention to their omnichannel experience and look for ways to leverage their retail footprint and build a cohesive experience across all touchpoints.

Leveraging the Store

With foot traffic stalling, traditional retailers need to find innovative ways to leverage their retail footprint without eroding profits. This is where a ship-from-store fulfilment can help traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers use stock that’s sitting on their shelves to pick, pack and dispatch online orders more seamlessly.

Instead of large, centralised distribution centres, a ship-from-store strategy turns each store into a mini distribution centre. This allows them to turn their stock over more efficiently, and ship orders to local customers, faster.

Think about it this way – from a retailers perspective, their greatest asset is their customers, and their most significant liability is their inventory. A ship-from-store fulfilment strategy can help manage inventory and customer experience by using stock in store to ship smarter and faster.

With Millenials and Gen Z’ers pushing for a frictionless shopping experience, retailers with a retail footprint need to tap into changing customer demands to find smarter ways to harness the changing nature of retail.

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