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Online retailers shake traditional rivals into action

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A few years back, the experts were adamant that online spelled the end of the traditional retailer.

Yet Australians still spend more than $10 in a store for every dollar they spend online. NAB’s online retail sales index put in-store purchases at $296.9 billion for the year to June 30, with online accounting for $20.1 billion.

That increasingly informed and connected shoppers are willing to pay the higher prices demanded by a bricks-and-mortar retailer suggests they continue to value the tactile shopping experience for most of their purchases. They want to touch and feel products before they buy.

SEE ALSO: Is online shopping the end of brick-and-mortar?

But the stores need to be a lot smarter about their offer. Retail remains in the midst of a profound transformation, with online steadily grabbing more of a growing market.

However, the changes triggered by the rise of the online retailer haven’t been as straightforward or as immediately overwhelming as the doomsayers anticipated.

The players are reinventing themselves. Bricks-and-mortar retailers are using in-store technologies to lure and support customers, while some online retailers have taken the plunge into bricks and mortar to meet demand for a physical presence.

The big department store chains, David Jones and Myer, were seen as the most vulnerable to the online assault. But a lot of the pain they’ve endured over the past five years was self-inflicted — a lack of attention to detail, complacency and a failure to value their customers properly.

There are differences in the way management of each has gone about turning around what are iconic Australian businesses.

Myer, for example, is ramping up the in-store concessions given over to big brands, while David Jones has more of a focus on its own brands.

They both, however, have seized on the importance of impressing their customers and giving them a better shopping experience. That means refurbished stores, brighter fit-outs, better service, increased use of in-store technology and perhaps, occasionally, some wow factor.

But is also means doing better on the basics, including stocking the right product at the right time. Because that disappointed customer isn’t going to another outlet to get an out-of-stock product, they’re pulling out the mobile phone to buy it elsewhere, online.

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