Retailers require a multi-focus approach
by Dave Nemeth. Over the past few months, I have been horrified by the lackadaisical attitudes of retailers towards their physical outlets.Monday, 29 Nov 2021
by Dave Nemeth. With a decade’s worth of innovation and change in consumer attitudes happening during the peak of the Covid pandemic, retailers were forced to quickly embrace technology. Huge sums of money had to be allocated to improving online presence, as well as ensuring ecommerce platforms were seamless and fully integrated into the supply chain. There are a myriad of complexities in ecommerce, with delivery and returns remaining a constant struggle for most. It is highly likely that the focus, and budget allocations will remain centered around digital, but this seems to be to the detriment of many, as the traditional areas of retail seem to be getting ignored. No matter how great the online integration is, if the physical aspects of retail are ignored, it could result in a rapid decline in sales, and furthermore allow for new entrants to steal market share.
Reports both globally, as well as locally, point to a dramatic shift in the loyalty towards brands. Quite simply, there isn’t any. Consumers are looking for new and exciting experiences and are willing to try new products and brands. It is clear that the time is right for new entrants into the retail space and for many, having small, bespoke brick and mortar stores will be key. Developers and mall owners are hungry for rental and this will be favorable for new entrants and a huge threat to established, larger retailers.
People are returning to shopping malls with the easing up of Covid restrictions, but the experience and service levels are, quite possibly, hitting an all time low. I spend a lot of time in malls and brick and mortar stores in order to gauge the direction in which trends are headed and, over the past few months, I have been horrified by the lackadaisical attitudes of retailers towards their physical outlets.
It has always been a science for clothing retailers to ensure that popular lines cover all the size curves, but lately it is becoming increasingly difficult to find sizes across core categories. It almost seems as though these are sitting in warehouses for the purpose of online shopping. There are obviously delays in shipments and imports but, if you cannot keep decent stock levels across items in store, they should not me promoted in window displays or on mannequins. Consumers are going to be highly frustrated if they have ventured out to make immediate purchases and then have to resort to going online to get the items they desire. An in store, in stock strategy will have to become a focus if retailers want to keep the feet on their floors.
Service levels from salespeople seem to be the worst ever. It is obvious that budgets have been slashed and the amount of store staff has been reduced, but this is no excuse for non-existent service. It has become clear that there is a lack of training taking place and staff seem unmotivated and uninformed regarding their range of products. Shelves are not updated and often, when you enquire about a product you cannot find, it is actually sitting in the store’s stockroom. How many sales are being lost if consumers are not enquiring about the availability of these products or simply believe that whatever they are looking for is out of stock. Many retailer’s ecommerce portals will identify stores which have the product in stock and frustration levels rise when one ventures out to make an immediate purchase, only to realise that the product is not on the floor and you have to spend more precious time trying to find someone from whom you can enquire about it. The biggest culprits here seem to be the mega hardware and lifestyle stores.
Many retailers are decreasing the size of their brick and mortar stores with the rise in online sales. However, there seems to be a lack of interest in trying to make these spaces functional and attractive to the people spending time in them. Bad product placement, outdated shelving, bad lighting, cracked floor tiles and poorly executed window displays are becoming increasingly more dominant. Like everything there are exceptions, and the large FMCG outlets are investing millions to try and appeal to a wider consumer base. Unfortunately, many others seem simply not to care, and stores look the same from a design point of view as they did 10-15 years ago.
This is something that many shopping malls are guilty of. Driving at night, past a series of malls, I was astounded by the number of large malls, including strip malls which had brand signage unlit, or actually falling off the walls. It is amazing what a fresh facelift could do for these enterprises, but it seems to be yet another aspect which is being completely overlooked, and which will end up being to the detriment of the tenants.
Lengthy queues, unpriced items.
One thing that has occurred with the advances in technology is that we humans want things to happen faster and more effectively than ever before. Time is precious, and wasting it by having to stand in a queue only causes brand frustration and aggravation. It is not acceptable to have a shortage of staff and tellers during peak times. Other frustrations are products which are unpriced on the shelves – a phenomenon that is also rapidly growing across all brands.
In many aspects it appears as if the basic retailing principles pertaining to physical stores have been pushed aside whilst the focus is predominantly online. We are human and we will always require physical experiences and a huge effort will have to be made in order to re-create a human-centered approach at these touchpoints. Many may just find that, due to them being so focused on technology, the failures and lack of sales will actually be the result of having forgotten about the importance of their physical presence.
Main image credit: Pixabay.com.
Retailing Africa’s retail analyst and columnist, Dave Nemeth is the founder of Trend Forward; and a design thinker, innovator, business re-designer, trend analyst, keynote speaker and writer.
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