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Chasing the 'long tail'

Chasing the 'long tail'

Retailers who cut the price for their online products only drive their customers away from their bricks and mortar stores and more than likely into the arms of a 'pure play' online competitor.

As retail continues to evolve and change in Australasia, retailers who only have a single channel risk being left behind and having their loyal customer base eroded. They will lose out to competitors who see the customer as mobile individuals who will shop where ever and how ever they find convenient. ‘Convenience’ is the new key phrase for successful retailers in this data hungry mobile world. Here’s a little story for you from my own experience: I just bought a chicken house and it came from Timaru (and I live near Palmerston North). It arrived the next day, postage was included and it was cheaper than a different brand in my local store. Most importantly it was delivered to my door without me having to go into town (20 minutes away). Convenience. That won my business.

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Clicks & mortar

How Hamish Grant stitches together EziBuy's stores and online channels.

To be a successful cross-channel retailer you should be aware of the following things — at all points of presence:

Stock: How much, where it is (including stock not yet in country) and how long it will take to get to the customer. Most importantly stock information must be accurate. Down to the last item.

Customer: Who they are. What they like, including their marketing preferences. This information must be able to be updated and must be the same at all touch points. The cross-channel customer is more loyal and more profitable than the single channel customer — by three times.

Consistent offer: If you have a sale on an item in your store, have that same offer available everywhere — customers aren’t stupid.

Who you are: Most retailers should really only have one of these five things as their key differentiator: The cheapest, fastest, biggest range, best customer experience, most convenient. Which are you?

Successful cross-channel retailers see online (and this includes mobile and social) as a complementary channel — not a competing one. It is about serving your customer: however, wherever and whenever they choose to shop. The customers experience and the retailer’s offers should be the same across all channels — they are just differing interaction points.

All stock should be offered online — this channel is the best way to remove that retailer’s head ache — the long tail. So what if you only have one of a product left in a dark dusty shelf in your warehouse or store — put it online and provided your price point is correct — someone will buy it.

Retailers who cut the price for their online products only drive their customers away from their bricks and mortar stores and more than likely into the arms of a ‘pure play’ online competitor — who can offer the product cheaper because they don’t have the overhead of physical stores.

Customers come to your store because they like something about your offer — whether that is the product, the experience, the price or even the staff.

I could buy my fishing lures from a discounter online but instead I go to my local outdoor store and pay more for the same product because every time I go there I learn something new about the art of fishing – from the staff or other customers.

This is this retailer’s key point of difference — the customer’s experience.

The message for enterprises? Don’t despair — it’s ok to not currently be a true ‘cross channel’ retailer, but you must be thinking and planning how you are going to become one, and you must become one soon — or be left behind. And often, it is far easier and far less costly than you think.

Hamish Grant is a retail and online expert – he cut his teeth in retail on the shop floor of his parents retail store and went on to be the CIO of the EziBuy Group, one of Austrialisia’s largest ‘cross channel’ retailer. He now runs his own consultancy focusing on the transition of businesses to become a ‘cross channel retailer’. He can be contacted on hamish.grant@annexIT.co.nz or via www.annexIT.co.nz

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