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What’s the future for the brick-and-mortar when European shoppers will spend €52 bn for Christmas this year?

These days an online presence is expected from brands and retailers. Consumers compare prices and offering online and purchase especially books and electronics online. Consumers also tend to expect to be able to buy fashion brands online.

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Although some perceive an online presence a MUST, I would rather say it presents an OPPORTUNITY to expand and to grow, especially for apparel and accessory retailers.

A question stated by many: does this transition to online sales mean that the traditional brick-and-mortar will completely vanish? For two main reasons, I say NO!

First of all we, consumers, still enjoy the experience of shopping - as I was doing my Christmas shopping; I was amazed by all the fantastic things offered to me. It is different online: first of all everything is 2D and nothing is touchable. On the other hand online shopping is comfortable - you do not need to iron your trousers, try to look good, search for parking space etc. But you do not get the 3D or even 4D experience either. And although some say I can only state this from a woman's point of you: believe you me - men are the same! I've taken men to Electronics Superstores and they will spend twice the time I spend in an apparel store!

 

Secondly, I believe the service is just not there. A lot of consumers feel online to be an additional source for information and delivery, but might still feel the need to touch the items prior to the actual decision to purchase. Statistics show that almost 50% of shoppers actually access the online content of a retailer while in the store. Still they shop in the store. A recent study, featured by "Online Retailer" showed that 35% of people who went to a website with the intent to buy did not complete the transaction as they were unable to find the product. The same study also states that 34% of the consumers did not buy although they found the product this was due to the product not being available! Feels unbelievable, yet true.

The opportunity or the opportunity missed?

The online offers a fantastic chance for growth through non-risky geographical expansion, access to items 24-7 and impulse shopping. It is clear that multi-channel at its full potential will show online pushing consumers to store and the 4D experience in the store enticing impulse shopping. But it must be done right!

In many cases online cannot serve the consumer to its full extend as a retailer will have to hold a separate stock for the online, this is done for IT reasons. Furthermore, consumers would in many cases prefer to collect their purchases in the store, but retailers will rather deliver items home as they may consider it to be better service or they again cannot supply from the store stock. These situations lead to the disappointment of the consumers and partly explain the 34% of consumers who do not buy online although they had intended to do so. The answer here would be an RFID implementation project with updates to the current online stores.

RFID is no longer a promise of a technology that could solve things. There is clear evidence of RFID's superiority in creating 99,9% exact inventory information. This is testified for example in extensive studies at the University of Arkansas (especially published by researchers Waller, Cromhout & Patton) and University of Parma as well as successful pilot and implementation projects more depicted by research company IDTechEx. Once inventory accuracy is in place, a common stock for shop floor and online can be created. And today as companies only plan this, the ones implementing will benefit: One example is the Dutch van Vuuren Mode, currently running an operation that trades 500.000 items in a year in their 26 Department Stores and web shop.

I suggested that the online is a great opportunity for retailers. That is, when it has been implemented. I for one have experienced several situations where my preferred fashion retailers have missed an opportunity to sell due to lack of their online presence: Once I met a woman my age in a German Trade show. She absolutely adored my ear rings and asked where I had bought them. I told her the store and also mentioned I had a brooch of the same design. Her response was "I'm sure they'll have an online store" and off she went in search with her smart phone. Just some weeks ago I was about to order my sister a present for Christmas online. I found the right product, I found the right size, everything looked great and THEN I was asked to enter the delivery address. This was, by the way, after I had submitted my credit card details. As I tried to select my country, there was no such option. I was not warned, nothing. I actually had to email the retailer to find out that although they sell in Euros and although they ship, they do not ship to Scandinavia. GREAT!

Provided that the retailer can manage different language and currency option as well as its stock, online would be a great addition to brick-and-mortar. RFID helps with the stock and Eurocard / Mastercard / Visa and other companies who benefit from the bank transaction will help with the online shop functionality.

Happy Holidays!

At this point I have done less online purchases for Christmas (I should be averaging at €217, I've only spent about €150), so I believe I now need go and complete my proportion and wish everybody HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Read also:

European online shoppers to spend €52bn in run-up to Christmas

RFID Opening the door to omni-channel retail

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