Local Retailing In The Age Of The Customer
This month, I was out in NYC during the National Retail Federation show (aka “The Big Show”) at the Javits Center. More than 30,000 people from around the world were there for the latest and greatest in the retail business. What struck me is that while eCommerce is rapidly growing, the traditional brick and mortar side of the business is not going away. In fact, technology is now integrating both online and in-store data to deliver a targeted and personalized customer experience. Success in today’s marketplace now requires an omni-channel approach that incorporates both a strong digital/eCommerce presence with a customer obsessed in-store strategy.
The pre-eminent market research firm Forrester has declared that we are moving from the Age of Information into The Age of the Customer. What will be at least a two decade period where all companies must be customer obsessed and delivering contextualized customer experiences across all touchpoints that tie sale efforts to the point where the buyer is in their purchase decision.
Today’s sales funnel, path-to-purchase or customer journey almost always begins online. The numbers I’ve seen show that 90% of shopping now begins on-line. More than 63% of all shoppers will research their purchases before visiting their local retailer to complete the purchase. What this means is that all retailers must have a functioning eCommerce shopping site or they will not be included in the consideration set of shoppers. Just like it used to be mandatory to have a presence in the Yellow Pages, today having a web site that is eCommerce enabled is the new mandatory.
While people may shop online, a significant majority will still prefer to support local businesses and buy in person. We are social animals and we want that in-person shopping experience. Also, the visceral aspect of actually seeing, touching and feeling the merchandise just can’t be replicated (yet anyway) with a digital experience. What we are seeing is a phenomena called “reverse showrooming” whereby consumers shop online but then visit their local store to buy.
Just like the old tree falls in the forest story, simply having an eCommerce site does not mean consumers will find you and shop. The local newspaper has been and still is the most trusted source for news and information for most Americans. While readership has shifted to digital, these media outlets are seen by more than 150 million adults each week. They have the traffic and the trust of the coveted local layer audience. They are also the natural place to establish the local digital marketplace.
We at Okanjo have seen this need and have created two proprietary plug and play technology platforms that allow publishers to simply and easily establish an eCommerce Marketplace for their local retailers. In addition to the Marketplace we have a Native Commerce option that contextually matches relevant product offerings to feature editorial content. Delivering a Buy Now function that reaches consumers at the exact moment of relevance. Readers can then complete secure transactions without ever leaving the publisher’s site.
In the new world of retail, even if you are just a small, local business – your consumer will expect to shop your store online. Basically, to survive and thrive in the Age of the Customer, you must have a strong digital and eCommerce presence. Opening up your own eCommerce site will not only grow your local store traffic, it will bring in online business from your town, the region and the entire country.