Retail in Australia over the last 12 months has been the subject of interesting discussion and also shown some interesting results. Much of the Australian experience is equally relevant to other jurisdictions given the globalisation factor. For some years now there has been much talk about the ability of the bricks and mortar retailers to survive in the wake of the online onslaught.
What has emerged however is something quite different. Retailers & E-tailers both need to adapt and use multi-channel strategies to succeed. In Australia while on-line sales have grown, it has not stopped the inroads (some may say invasion of the overseas retailers who are opening with a bricks and mortar presence.
What is true is that todays shop is far from conventional. What we have learned from the various strategies adopted is that shopping is not merely an action. It is an activity, an experience, a destination that people want to enjoy. Much more than simply a point & click experience and equally much more than the department store retailer or high street store of the last 20 years. What is clear (unsurprisingly) is that people want interaction with other people as well as the latest in electronic connectivity. It is the blend of the 2 that has seen the successful strategists think outside the square in blending retailing with people and technology, including social media. This should not surprise anyone. Some basic research will show that well and truly before the internet and home computers there were studies as to what makes people want to shop in a particular store .
We know clever strategies are out there but if you’re not constantly reviewing and re-evaluating, its like star gazing . You know something is out there but not sure where or how to get there yourself .
One example being a 1972 study “PERSONALITY AS A DETERMINANT FACTOR IN STORE CHOICE” and this is only one of many. What the paper determined is not relevant here but rather that the individual as a shopper with very human traits is the relevant consideration.
We now see how on-line and in-store strategies strive to appeal to consumers very human traits by offering “personal interaction” as the experience not just on line interaction i.e. more person to person connection as part of the shopping encounter. These strategies include in store experiences that drive imagination and interaction, advance previews in store and child activity areas .
Personal service, a thing of the past or is it ? What we now see is that people seek out good service. There is no substitute for good product or services that are being offered but the old school approach of a customer being able to spend real face to face time with someone who will help, explain and do so in a manner that shows a real interest cannot go unnoticed.
Apple is the obvious example. A computer leader that has built a retail experience that other retailers think they can only dream of. Before you think that such strategies can only be afforded by the larger corporates like Apple, think again.
One example in Australia is Harrolds –the luxury store for men. Walking in to a Harrolds store is a service experience that would have to make them a leader in the “in store experience” stakes.
Put simply, there is a drive to attract you into the bricks and mortar stores and to keep you in store by delivering much more than just inventory. The in store experience needs to deliver an immersion into service and offerings without being confusing . No one said it was easy but ignoring it isn’t going to work.
Story in the US is another example of really thinking outside the retail square. Staying ahead of the curve for Story requires shutting the store down every 4 – 8 weeks for a 2 week period for a total re-fit out. The time frame may not be the same for all locations but the idea is adapted to the location. Easy? No. Successful? It has worked for Story.
Despite the diversity of opinion as to what strategy works best and how this can be best achieved one point is without doubt incontestable. Foreign retailers who are coming to Australia as well as Australian success stories wanting an improved bricks and mortar presence in a strong location are numerous and they are spending up big on the bricks and mortar stores.
The evidence : International retailers having set up bricks and mortar shops in Australia
- Marks and Spencer
- Top Shop
Spanish head quarters
US head quarters
- Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, and West Elm
- Victoria’s Secret
Italian head quarters
- Luxottica has opened the world’s largest Sunglass Hut in Sydney
Swedish head quarters
- H & M
Japanese head quarters