As we are approaching the end of the COVID – 19 pandemic, the world is mentally prepared for the “new normal”. After over one year of social isolation, most of humanity is eager to get back to in-person shopping, dining, and partying. The majority of people are impatiently venturing out to socialise, celebrate, and buy what they desire; both on the main street and online. The shopping season is getting closer. Are you ready?
October, November, and December are the infamous holiday shopping months of the year. These months have become so popular that they have even inspired holidays of their own; Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Single’s Day in China, and Prime Day by Amazon are fuelling commerce. Not to mention the other occasions during the year, such as Valentine’s Day in February and Mothers’ Day in May, to stimulate consumers to buy a few more things. The commerce crescendo of the year is Christmas and The New Year, which turns into an frenzy of gift buying and generosity.
We became homo consumericus.
Consumerism is an indispensable part of our society and our way of life. We could turn Rene Descartes phrase “cogito, ergo sum” into “I shop, therefore I am”. Harvard University’s Michael Sandel, a political philosopher, has has been questioning this for a vwhile. He argues that we have turned the supposed market economy into rather a market society. Money can almost buy anything.
Nonetheless, we will continue to buy. So, the retail industry on high street and main street are expecting you in their stores during the last quarter of the year. Coming out of lockdown and being at home for quite a while, consumers are very keen and motivated to get back into in-person shopping culture. This season should be a strong one, fuelled by the long waiting to be able to go out for wining and dining, socialising, and shopping.
COVID has changed everything, forever.
However, there is an important change in habit. Not only the cautiousness of people by way of social distancing and hygienic expectations, but more in the the digital augmentation realm. During the COVID lockdowns, everyone became an online expert. Searching, sharing, comparing, commenting, analysing, auctioning, bargaining, waiting for the right moments, buying from the best website through the best possible channels, with the most convenient means of payment has become the mainstream.
Even before the pandemic, a true shake-out in the retail industry has been taking place. The bigger and better players have become more successful, the smaller and weaker ones are rendered obsolete. Starting from 2015 CB Insights reports 135 bankruptcies in the retail industry. This has even accelerated during COVID and is only projected to worsen.
Why does this happen? There are multiple reasons, starting with bad management, not keeping up to date, the wrong product portfolio, improper pricing, etc. Most importantly the most important aspect of any business is always the customer. Do you know who they are? Do you care about them? Do you try to understand them, provide the best possible service and pricing, and the best possible experience across all channels, at all touchpoints, at all times?
Consumers have become used to e-commerce in the last year. In 2020, the e-commerce volume jumped from 3 trillion USD to above 4 trillion USD and is expected to reach almost 5 trillion USD in 2021. Statista is forecasting continuous growth,reaching 6,4 Trillion USD by 2024. Shopify has wrapped these numbers with some other insights they have gained from their own activities.
E-commerce stills is just about %20 of the total retail market. We are talking 25 trillion USD in total consumer spending, 20 trillion USD still in retail stores, creating hundreds of millions of jobs, an adjacent real estate market, and more.
Bricks versus clicks. Who will prevail?
Who will win this season? Who will capture more attention? Shops or marketplaces or super apps? What do you think? What will be the most important reasons why people prefer a certain app or site or store?
Habits for sure are the most important reason. Habits make you feel at home, we get used to what we know and everything else is quite annoying. You like those shops with the best parking facilities, the best prices, or the products you like most, and a smiling staff.
Habits are developed for every or reason other than rationale. They have been hard-wired in our brains over the years, and we honestly believe that they are valuable, convenient, and logical. This only changes when we tap into something even better, consciously, or accidentally.
During lockdown, many people experienced e-commerce websites and apps for the first time. Some liked it, some didn’t. Some benefited from it, some disliked the services and products. For some it will stick, for some it has caused an even bigger desire to go out shopping again. Some need to touch the products, smell them, try them out, talk to other people, and some just enjoy going out. Habits…
Payments will make a difference.
But nobody likes to wait in queues! Check-out, returns, complaints, and similar services or steps of shopping can make or break the overall experience. This is true for online or physical shops. What to do about it? Automate and streamline as much as possible. Levi Strauss CFO just recently said, what can be automated should be automated. How right he is.
One of the most important convenience enablers is the payment / checkout. Contactless, one-click-order, replenishment / subscription features, click-n-collect, last-mile-delivery, and many more innovations trat and spoil consumers. And they get used to the most convenient. As a results, anything below that service quality turns into rubbish, immediately, with no mercy.
So, retailers must follow and adopt any kind of payment possibility out there. Cards, mobile, tokens, watches, face recognition, voice control, and even crypto. The world is at a remarkably interesting turning point. Either we will ban all crypto or we will embrace them. My view is that the tide has changed. Especially with the introduction of central bank digital currencies (CBDC), the whole topic became a new flavour. Atlantic Council is tracking the entire world of CBDC’s. Bank of England shares their view on the subject, without a clear decision to pursue or not. The European Central Bank has a dedicated website for this matter.
No matter which way we move on, retailers and e-commerce site alike, must embrace any means of payments, to improve convenience, to provide options, and to capture business. The ones adopting fastest, simplest, and with the most variety will have a substantial advantage above the others.
Intelligence is your friend.
Wouldn’t you like to know who the person is, entering your store or clicking thru your website? You should wonder and you should do as much as possible to capture this data. The more you will collect data, the sharper your analytical skills will be, the better your intelligence will become. This is true not only for customer analytics, but also for product analytics, process, and supply chain analytics, even in the areas of risk, fraud, pricing, and many more.
With analytics you not just examine the past and try to understand what happened. But you also try to investigate the future. What might happen in the next moment, tomorrow, next week, even next month? Demand forecasting and supply planning are super critical capabilities to achieve optimal availability in the stores, in your warehouse, in the overall value chain. Otherwise, you either run out of stock, which means loss of revenues. Or you have surplus, which has financial impacts. You do not want both.
Digital is the key to success.
Payments, intelligence, convenience, efficiency, and even sustainability is supported by your digital superpowers. The ones who have it, know the difference. The ones who don’t get it, will suffer, struggle, and run into deep trouble.
Retail is one of the fastest, most competitive, ever-changing industries out there. Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Dear retailers, dear e-commerce sites: Do you get it? You cannot compete with traditional methods from the previous century. You must change.
Digital will give you speed, intelligence, and flexibility to adopt quickly to market changes and consumer expectations. Digital will enable you to provide better experiences for consumers, employees, and business partners. Digital will also allow you to better manage your business. If done correctly, even in real-time, online, from the palm of your hand, anytime, anywhere.
To understand where you are on your digital journey, please measure your digital maturity.
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