Not all stories end with “They Lived Happily Everafter.”

You have probably heard the current furor happening in the retail industry where the major retailers are bleating about online retail having an unfair advantage in the current GST regime.
Technically this is correct, but this is not the reason that the majority of retailers are feeling significant pain. Here in Australia our major retailers have failed to see (or ignored) a major change in buyer behavior that has been catalyzed by the digital age.
Prior to Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, peer product reviews and online pricing services, the consumer needed the retailer to aggregate product and price information. A skillful retailer would then interrogate the customer and put forward a solution.

In the digital age all that has changed. The consumer comes to the retailer much later in the buying cycle and is armed with more product information (that is more contextually accurate) than any retailer can be expected to know.
The consumer for all intents and purposes has made the product decision, what they want to know now is what added value can a particular retailer augment the transaction with.
Australian retailers have failed to identify this trend, or have been too slow to adjust their model to capitalize on the change. The current outcry. It’s not fair is merely a red hearing. The root of the problem is that today many of our mainstream retailers are just not giving the customer what they need.

In the not too recent past many retailers have been able to largely control the dissemination of information. This is the equivalent of “Marketing Utopia”, No one can maintain this environment too long into the digital future.
It is now time to “open the kimono”. Successful retailers will position their brand in the customers mind as the easy and safe alternative to conduct a transaction.
If you can make it easy to do business, reassure the customer that they are paying a reasonable price, and guarantee that you will be there for them in times of need, you will win.
The skill here will be in streamlining the customer interface and identifying the “times of need” that resonate most with the customer.

2 comments… add one
  • Mark Jan 19, 2011 @ 3:03

    Hi Alex, I totally agree. I have worked in bricks and mortar retail forth last 10 years and now in the pure online space I think that Australian retail needs to take the digital opportunities by the horns and run with it. This is the same trend seen in the US and Europe so I think it’s here to stay. Mark

    • Alex Cochran Jan 19, 2011 @ 12:12

      Mark, who would have thought 2 years ago that you could establish a viable online shoe store, after all isn’t this product tactile and fashion driven? Well Zappos showed us all the power of a dogmatic focus on customer service. Businesses like Styletread are really a window into the future of retailing in this country.

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