Remember when retail transactions were completed based only on the assortment found within the confines of a brick-and-mortar store? Truth is, we may never return to those days.
I’ve heard arguments that as a result of retail choices, formats and virtual storefronts, consumers will no longer establish relationships with retailers. As a result, loyalty will be lost.
Honestly, I disagree. Multi-channel retailing not only has the potential to enhance the shopping experience, but also the ability to strengthen relationships with patrons.
How can that be? And if true, how can a retail operation begin to be “everywhere” shoppers expect them to be when they are ready to buy something?
Consider the advantages of an online storefront. First and foremost, the cost of operation — especially labor — is significantly less. Additionally, having virtual aisles allows for merchandise that would otherwise not fit within the constraint of four walls to be available for purchase at any time. Finally, the ability to guide consumer purchases, make recommendations and track prior sales has never been easier.
Another intrinsic value of e-commerce is flexibility. Because consumers have different reasons for shopping and different likes/dislikes about certain products, retailers can help their visitors establish profiles that allow them to navigate the online storefront in the direction they personally desire.
What about mobile applications? There is most definitely a place for mobile apps at retail. The key is to create an interface that immediately directs visitors to activities that will align with their purpose for visiting. Too many organizations make the mistake of replicating their traditional web page as a mobile application. Nothing could be more frustrating. For a retail pharmacy’s mobile app, perhaps there are only six key activities:
1) Refill a prescription
2) Check on the status of a prescription
3) Shop by symptom or need
4) Get a map to a nearby location
5) Speak to a pharmacist
6) View weekly specials
Keeping the mobile app clean, relevant and simple to navigate is essential. Anything that slows the visitor’s purpose will simply clutter the experience and fuel dissent.
So, have I convinced you that buyers are everywhere and they want access anytime and anyplace? I’d be curious to hear the steps you have taken to create a unified and ever-present front using all available connection points. I believe that embracing this ability to connect one-to-one has forever changed the face of retail.
Dave Wendland is VP and co-owner of Hamacher Resource Group, a retail healthcare consultancy located near Milwaukee, Wis. He directs business development, product innovation and marketing communications activities for the company and has been instrumental in positioning HRG among the industry’s foremost thought leaders. You may contact him at (414) 431-5301 or learn more at Hamacher.com.