My Retail Rant

It’s not an Acceleration it’s a Temporary Alternative with friction!

I am not happy with e-commerce, seriously I thought that by now they would have been
 a lot better than this. In fact with physical retail shuttering stores all I can say is the consumer is in trouble! Consumers needed an alternative to physical shopping because they are afraid of catching the virus. So we are ordering online. But I can tell you that it is no earth shattering customer experience. If e-commerce believes that convenience is the customer experience they are in for a rude awakening. The kind of awakening consumers have been experiencing when the box arrives and “The Great Let Down” begins. Wrong product, wrong size, colour. Try returning it or as one colleague shared a nightmare trying to get a refund. Not to forget mentioning the customer hassle of having to ship it back. Consumers are not into reverse shipping logistics. Returns to a store while not convenient is more complete, less complex and no questions asked.
Let me tell you, all of this is not reshaping permanent behaviours to online, it’s identifying the shortfalls e-commerce has not addressed when it comes to consumer shopping. And consumers are taking notes!
When I look at e-commerce it’s always been a bolt on business to physical retail. Sure there is Amazon but every other e-commerce player is a wannabe and they simply are horrible at this. Each site is nothing more than a digital catalogue, even physical retail sites are no better, with a cart and chat bot. Who cares! Sorry that’s not fulfilling!! And it sure is not satisfying in any way!!!

Is E-commerce the final retail solution? 

Sure you’re going to show me numbers that indicate e-commerce is exploding, that may be so,  but in reality it’s because of Covid-19. It is a mistake to write off all other businesses as redundant because of this virus. Yes they are failing, but not because e-commerce destroyed them, that’s a conjured up news message to grab attention. The reality is very different, far too many overstored, underperforming and tired brands that were just hanging on trying to figure out the digital landscape and it took one virus to knock them out. E-commerce will never replace the physical need consumers have and it is very obvious now that they can’t! In fact what e-commerce advocates are misinterpreting is the consumers dissatisfaction with service, product quality, pricing and experience with physical retail as their own win. It isn’t, e-commerce is the option to match the same lower experience consumers have been paying for in physical stores. Full Stop! E-commerce needs to recognize this and up their game or lose what they’ve gained. Which I believe to be the outcome that many of them will experience.
I’ve been in a couple of online only distribution and logistics centres, sorry it was absolute chaos, they were never prepared for this kind of volume all of a sudden they can barely respond to their customers and verify the status of orders. Convenience does not a customer experience make, especially when it is an inconvenience!
Reality is Covid-19 it has destroyed the global economy. Don’t believe me get on the Reuter’s site and go through the articles. Country after country is in contraction. Deep recessions are being forecasted globally. Restrictions are ramping up again because of the virus outbreaks. The WHO just said air travel is not low risk. E-commerce can’t get their act together any faster than physical retailers can and that will push consumers into making other choices when this virus is settled and it will be at some point.
Seriously, if you want to succeed and your business to survive this mess, consumers need a complete retail experience from your door to theirs whether they do it in person or online.
Is there a day of reckoning coming to e-commerce and how soon will that happen?  They need to get their act together. Right now their only advantage is this virus.
What will emerge out if this are a number of smaller retailers that understand service, who have created a working affordable strategy behind digital assets and logistics to address the need for consumer research, browsing, ordering  and or planning store visits. That’s the future of retail, is personalized and invested in technology. Not in the dropping off of boxes.

 

George Minakakis is the CEO of Inception Retail Group and Author of The Great Transition The Emergence of Unconventional Leadership.

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