OK the economy is coming right… but the real problem is the pack of velociraptors in your back garden. If you don’t fix them…forget the economy!
As the country slowly limps out of recession, we find ourselves in a very different retail landscape. The downturn obviously had an effect on the high street, but were the casualties really just victims of a credit-dependent business model, and an economy pumped to bursting point? Maybe. Maybe not.
For nearly a decade, “The Economy” has been paraded as the reason for the retail sector’s woes. But the new reality we’re all adjusting to has been shaped much more by the pervasive, here to stay, and I would argue massively more dramatic influence of the e-retailers who have spent the last fifteen years or more sharpening their e-commerce teeth – becoming a devastating weapon in the jaws of what is now a savage pack of predators…
I suggest this is really what is causing the challenges today and this is far more dangerous than an economic cycle.
The seismic change that they’ve learned to ride on has been driven by the massive social trends we’re all very well aware of. The way people and businesses interact is different now – social media has mushroomed, e-commerce is the norm, everyone has a mobile and wi-fi is the invisible link, and it’s going everywhere.
In this e-xx world the e-tailers are thriving by offering instant access to endless aisles, one-click buying, peer reviews, smart suggestions, no queuing, no parking hassles, low prices and home delivery so fast it’s almost instant gratification. It’s easy and time efficient.
Amazon is setting the benchmark here. It’s a genuine marketplace where browsing and buying is made easy.
For retailers with a more traditional set-up, that’s the real challenge, and it needs to be urgently addressed. With a voracious predator muscling in on your hunting ground, economic growth will not necessarily save you… so how do you respond?
First you need to adapt to your new environment. That means tapping into the expectations and demands of the e-xx world and making better use of the resources you have; take what people like about Amazon and incorporate into your own business model, while playing up the differences to your advantage. You have two weapons:
We‘ve all been working on this. There are some startlingly good examples (as one demonstration of this working) of retailers getting store stock as part of e-commerce orders for same day delivery… Boom! One raptor down.
The learning here is that, although e-commerce looks like it all, suddenly the store has a role again… and e-tailers don’t have any!
2. The Store
It’s time to really leverage the store, from a stock point for e-commerce into something far more powerful. The store has two massive advantages:
- an emotional buying experience that allows touch/see/feel. This builds a connection with the customer
- staff – the customers’ hosts – helping, guiding, offering alternatives, adding a warm layer of human interaction to the experience… we’re all suckers for a good salesperson especially, as I’ve learnt, if you are one. People buy from people.
The key is to make it easy.
Bring the easy, visual, virtual world together with the exciting, tactile, almost visceral world of interacting with a product and a service wrap with human warmth, and value starts.
Make your store people a dramatic part of the virtual, visceral experience… provide them with the e-xx world and shape it around the customer and you may be able to fend off the rest of those blighters in your back yard…
The time is now. You urgently need to unleash your stores… if not, the economy may not save you. Now, where’s that copy of Jurassic Park?
Posted by Alan Townsend, Sales Director, BT Expedite
Balance is important in relationships. When things get out of balance the harmony is lost and the relationship suffers. At the risk of working in sweeping generalisations, the retail industry is out of balance with its customers and the cause is easy to see. Looking back over the last five years, retailers and consumers have been going in completely different directions.
Retailers have had their hands full. They’ve been working hard on consolidation, cost transformation and efficiency. They’ve been implementing ERP systems and forecasting engines, upgrading their POS platforms, transforming their supply chains and providing e-commerce channels. They’ve been updating their stores, upgrading their networks, improving manufacturing processes and being more energy efficient. This is great stuff but when you get to the heart of it, it hasn’t really changed how retail works and the life of a store employee hasn’t materially changed.
Compare this with what the consumers have been up to. Smartphones, tablets, broadband, mobile broadband, Google, Facebook, Twitter. The list goes on. People communicate differently now (who would have thought that after the 160 character restriction of SMS messages were removed, we would voluntarily choose a service like Twitter that only allows even shorter messages) and are data rich. The transition of Google from a company to a verb is a strong indicator of how behaviours have changed.
OK. All of this is well known and documented to death. Customers are now highly mobile and informed so retailers need to give the consumer what they want – e -commerce, social interaction, richer information online, wireless networks in stores, better shipping options, apps, kiosks, customised promotions, seamless shopping experiences, to mention just a few.
And this is where balance comes into it. Customers want to engage with the retailer and have the social interaction that makes the process enjoyable, but the store employees just don’t have the knowledge to engage at the level that the customer now expects. Think of the store as a dance floor; the customers are all out there looking for a good time while the store employees shuffle their feet round the edges looking slightly embarrassed, not sure of what to say. Research has shown that customers are crying out for better service. So how can balance be restored? How can retailers get their store staff back onto the dance floor?
Simple. Go mobile, but as a retailer. Not a consumer. Then learn.
It’s not consumer mobile. That’s fickle, fast changing, uncertain. It’s not the old enterprise mobile – that’s clunky, slow and unwieldy. The new enterprise mobile is fast, predictable and secure. And compatible.
Imagine the opportunities. Your store employees, free to engage customers anywhere within the store and provide all of the services you have available today. Not limited by point solutions that do one thing, but with full access to everything with all of the capabilities that you need. And as they engage, learn from the experiences and adapt and evolve the processes and systems to better satisfy the customer.
It’s Retail. Unleashed.
Posted by Mike King,CTO, BT Expedite
Not a day goes by without at least one email appearing in my inbox telling me about a new revolution in the world of payments. Telling me if I’m not using my mobile phone to pay for everything I am an idiot.
The year is 2013, it’s pretty much the future. So as an experiment I set out on a day trip to London with only my mobile phone in my pocket. No wallet, no cards, no cash. Foolish? Yes. Very.
I had three objectives for my day – get to a meeting, grab some lunch and find a present for my Dad’s upcoming birthday.
I live near Birmingham so a trip to London is a moderately significant undertaking. Upon arrival at the train station I felt a sense of ominous dread as the car park barrier spat out its ticket – how would I pay for this? Maybe it would be one of those ‘Pay by Text’ car parks and my mobile would be saviour. In any case, it would be 5pm by the time I was back here and I suspected that by then this would be the least of my worries.
I will confess that I had cheated slightly on the train ticket front, paid for in advance on a corporate account. No card needed here though, I could have paid with PayPal in advance.
Once I arrived in London, getting around with no money was easy and I had a load of different options – my Oyster card automatically tops itself up from my bank account, I had one of the taxi apps on my phone meaning I could pay that way (although both times I’ve tried that the taxi driver wouldn’t let me use it due to the high percentage they are charged – “great for getting jobs, not so good for fares”).
Arriving at the meeting with time to spare I immediately noticed how free it felt not to have to carry a wallet around. It was a hot day and I wasn’t wearing a jacket but didn’t need to worry about unsightly bulges in my highly fashionable slim fit trousers.
Following the meeting I set out on the quest for food. Immediately realising that many independents were even further back on the payment curve, not even accepting cards, I went out to the big chains. Still a lack of mobile acceptance; it was at least four or five attempts before I found one of the large pizza chains that would accept payments via their app. I didn’t want a huge lunch but was stuck.
After tucking in I went to the app, not only paying but securing a discount for doing so and walked out. On the way I was stopped by the waiter who was a bit confused that I hadn’t left any method of payment. He had heard of his own chain’s app so let me off, with only a slightly dubious look in his eye.
Now I just had my Dad’s birthday present to buy.
Working at BT Expedite, I’ve been involved in a number of implementations of mobile vouchers and payments so finding a shop was as simple as going through our customer list. That’s not to say the item I selected will be my Dad’s first choice of gift (I’m not sure how ladies sizes relate to men) but don’t they say it’s the thought that counts?
This was going OK, maybe I could live without a wallet. As long as I had narrow expectations and didn’t mind being restricted in many ways I was OK.
One of the big restrictions in all this however is not the growing number of places that accept mobile payment. It is my phone. Already I was getting low battery warnings. I had a 90 minute train journey to go – if I had any hope of getting home safely I would have to sacrifice music, emails, browsing and Candy Crush Saga. Martyrdom awaits.
Alas, even this didn’t take into account that someone might phone me up. They did and despite my best efforts as I got off the train my phone finally gave up.
To the payment industry, which wants me to seriously utilise my phone as a payment device, I would suggest either investing heavily in phone battery development or realising that my phone has many other uses. It isn’t as dependable as a card, which is always there when I open my wallet. My card never runs out of battery, doesn’t need charging. I can’t break the screen and it doesn’t become unusable when I take a phone call or read an email. In 2013, we are supposed to be multi-tasking machines. I read a story the other day about a lady who was refused service in her local supermarket while she was on her phone. At least that doesn’t happen in the world of mobile-phone payments.
So this leaves me here, in the station car park. No form of payment, no way of contacting anyone to help me pay. Without breaking the law I’m stuck.
Does anyone know if the police take bail payments via mobile yet?
Mark Denton, Head of Solution Consulting, BT Expedite