Watching the shoppers milling around Sydney’s George Street, spending money, sizing up potential purchases and carrying bags, something occurred to me: retail is like tennis.
Alright, on the surface of it, that might seem like a flippant (and perhaps totally barmy) thought. But before anyone calls the men in white coats on my behalf, consider this.
Tennis is a game like any other, but one difference sets it aside. The same game with the same rules has endured for years – but whether you’re playing on grass, clay or asphalt matters.
The rules of the Retail game haven’t changed…
The best practice principles of retail haven’t fundamentally changed. Things like providing personal service, being the experts in your field, demonstrating product quality and having your store in the right position to capture customer attention are just as important as ever.
Quite simply, if you get these basics right, you’ll have happy customers. And happy customers mean good word of mouth.
Easy, right? So why do so many retail businesses struggle in the digital marketplace?
That’s because just like tennis, how you play the game depends on where you play it.
Digital hasn’t changed retail best practice rules, but it has changed how you create that experience for your online customers. The court surface has changed beneath your feet.
… the playing court has
Suddenly the ball reacts differently. It bounces higher, hits the ground and changes direction seemingly on a whim and you can’t get up quite as much speed or traction across the ground as before.
That’s what digital has done for retailers. Your customers have access to a whole world wide web of information, so they can be as expert as your retail staff. It’s harder to deliver a personal experience and showcase your product’s quality to your customers online. It’s really tough to put your store in the right position to be discovered and considered by your potential customers.
And word of mouth? Social media and online reviewing has totally transformed that game – a happy customer has more influence than ever before, but so does an unhappy one.
Retail needs a new gameplan
If you’ve ever played tennis, you’ll know it is possible to be a total GOD on clay – and play like your Grandma after a few too many gins on the grass court. You know how to play, you understand the rules, you’ve mastered the tricks and frankly, you’ve gotten pretty damn good at it. But this new court has totally screwed things up for you.
First off, you need to adapt the game you’ve already learned to your new setting – your processes need to transform to deliver your best game online. Everything needs to be reconsidered – from logistics and warehousing, pick and pack processes, to your customer relationship management and how to deliver customer service online. You need to find new, smart ways to visually present your products, provide the information that assists your customers’ decision-making and streamline the purchase process to close that sale.
Once you’ve done that, you’ve clawed yourself back to match point. But if you want to win, there’s yet more to think about. Packaging, shipping costs, your global pricing strategy, creating a positive delivery and returns experience. All these new factors shape your online game.
The good news is there aren’t that many players in the tournament right now
Australia is a fascinating retail market. Online shopping is still gaining traction amongst consumers, familiar high street retailers have proven slow off the mark, there are still infrastructure challenges to be overcome to make delivery a more seamless and less frustrating experience.
New research from NAB indicates that at the moment, online pureplay retailers are winning the game, controlling 70% of all online retail sales. They understand how retail needs to be played on the new court, and, as a result, are serving aces against you more often than not.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The marketplace isn’t cluttered with too much competition right now, with even big-name retailers still warming up on the sidelines. Unlike the UK or the US too, e-commerce behemoth Amazon doesn’t have a monopoly as the top seeded player.
So gather insight into how the new court is affecting your game – and develop a smart strategy that will get you winning again.
Then the tournament is yours for the taking. Game, set and match.
Bernadine Brewer is a digital strategist at Zuni.