The Changing Face of Shopping
I happened to be in Melbourne recently, just as Chadstone Shopping Centre unveiled its new wing.
People reported being unable to exit the freeway as traffic chaos ground cars to a halt. The crowds were stifling and all 10,000 car spaces were occupied, with more vehicles circling the car park.
A quick visit to Chadstone’s website reveals they have:
- Over 500 stores
- 10,000 car spaces
- 20-million customers every year
Yet many say retail is dying.
What’s the real deal with retail versus e-tail?
Like you, I’ve read reports about online shopping destroying retail. And again, just like you, I’ve been reading them for years.
There’s no doubt online shopping is ever-increasing. It’s true. I can’t argue with the statistics and findings of many a reputable consulting firm. But just because it’s increasing doesn’t mean it’s replacing other forms of shopping completely.
Isn’t it about choice?
You see, I don’t see it so simply, as in: retail or e-tail, this or that; ‘either’, ‘or’.
I see it through a different lens: the lens of choice.
Then I found this post Retail or E-tail? Buying Online Vs. Buying in Person by Kristen Gramigna via Business.com insightful. She perfectly describes the complexity of the modern shopping environment. It’s a worthwhile and thought-provoking read. And I believe, spot on!
What I love? She focuses on shoppers. Customers. People: their needs, wants, emotions, and behaviours. Complex indeed.
Shopping statistics are a by-product of customer behaviour
We should remember, the consequences of taking statistics and research findings on face value are considerable for any business. Years ago, I recall banks closing branches thick and fast in an effort to shift customers to online banking—only to reopen many a couple of years later.
Why? I suspect they simply moved too fast, their customers weren’t ready. And now with customer behaviour shifting, they’re closing again. But I wonder if this time, customers are leading the way rather than being pushed.
I think this nails it
A couple of paragraphs from the Kristen’s post stand out for me. She writes:
The Emotional Payoff
Shopping is more than consumerism. It may involve the opportunity to spend the afternoon with friends, to temporarily alter the way one perceives himself/herself by changing physical appearance or surrounding oneself with company he/she strives to keep. Despite the popularity of buying online, these highly emotional aspects of shopping maintain the appeal of buying in person.
In a 2013 study conducted by retail strategy firm WD Partners, nearly 80% of respondents said instant gratification was the key benefit to buying in person; 75% said the experience of human connection was the reason they bought in store.
I imagine customers are looking for an emotional payoff wherever, however they shop; whether it’s the joy of a day out with friends, the delight of quiet cuppa while browsing the net or finding the best price online. It may be a different emotional payoff from each experience or channel (be it online or offline) but it’s an emotional payoff all the same.
But why stop at retail versus e-tail?
With just under half a million people participating in Australia’s direct-selling industry, it’s likely you will have interacted with the channel in some way over the years.
Misconceptions aside, today’s direct sellers are customer-centric small business owners, social media savvy and equipped with iPads and apps. It’s all very up-to-the-minute, incredibly convenient and if it takes the customer’s fancy, refreshingly social: 24-hour shopping, remotely, face-to-face or both.
These days you can buy everything from water purifiers, telecommunications services, and chocolate, along with more familiar products like cosmetics and nutritionals.
The industry, supplies a broad range of products for sure, but it also offers, convenience and connection. Whether customers choose to order online or in-person, there’s the same, familiar face offering consistent and personal customer service—every time.
No hiding behind a call centre or contact form, just the same person, helping you —always.
And in today’s fast-moving, increasingly digital world, that’s special.