CHANGING FACE OF ONLINE RETAILING

Mental health is one of the biggest issues we’ll face in 2021. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry in Canada says that the country faces mounting mental health concerns that the government would have to address. Mental health challenges impact employee retention, productivity, and job performance. Therefore, mental health problems are often associated with large direct costs for individuals and society. 

Spiky asset price booms can be a source of cheer, but also anxiety. Anxiety mounts over FOMO (fear of missing out) on a stock market rally or the prospect of the potential stock market bubble burst. Some might say that the market momentum couldn’t be better than this. Most people are bogged down with money, and acquiring things or power. However, the current stark contrast in the fortunes of the Wall Street and the Main Street seems to be unavoidable. What gives us satisfaction, hope, solace or positivity in the age of anxiety is not only about monetary gains. 

Retail therapy is an interesting concept to pay attention to. Shopping makes us happy. Impromptu shopping sometimes helps us relieve bad moods. It is all well and good until the credit card bill arrives. Retailers try to recreate a serendipity moment and fit the customer taste. However, the shopping experience is largely the same with the small exceptions. We go. We buy. We leave and oftentimes we never come back.

There is a major shift in the online shopping experience lately. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the shift towards a more digital world. Big-box department stores have become obsolete as online shops further proliferate. How we consume our money and time for shopping for fun or necessities would change immensely. Shopping can be in the domain of entertainment. Online retailing is such a great venue to constantly flow small trials and increase speed of finding product-customer fit. Hence, it creates a great opportunity for a retail tech investor. There are many interesting things happening in the market.  

Fun stress-relief activities help reduce anxiety. Frictionless online experience is essential. It is best if there is no layer between customer and retailer when everything in the world is moving online. Doing less can be more satisfying. Online retailing has to be self-explanatory, simple and clear. There is no knowledgeable and courteous sales staff to help you find what you need. Careless retailers often make online shopping experience more cumbersome. Customers have already drastically altered the way they shop and look for information, but retailers are often slow to change. It is pivotal to look into the mindset of digital native customers and how up-and-coming ‘digital first’ retailers react to that. Many retailers could pretend that they are native but they are yet just digital immigrants.    

The good news is that still there is a window of opportunity for legacy retailers. For winning customers in the new consumer landscape, it is critical to adapt and rapidly anticipate constantly changing consumers’ needs to stay relevant. We were told that retailers and brands would react faster to the pace of change, but retailers often insist on doing things the old way. Then, they will find no place to survive. The customers are fully in control in this new online retailing landscape and they are giving retailers a lot of hints. 

Success depends on a greater focus on your customers, their attributes, stock readiness and payment easiness. It is also important to be mindful how customers want to find a place to belong to when the physical store is harder to access and enjoy in a Covid-induced world . It is a billion dollar question where investment needs to be directed for long-term growth of online retailing rather than short-term marginal gains. 

Culture and driving purpose are critical for delivering success. Frictionless payment moves the customer through stress-free shopping and checkout. Quick, efficient and humane logistics is a critical factor to succeed in e-commerce, too. Still there is a huge room to improve further. But, doing basic things right and at the right time should be prioritized and should be the purpose of pursuing excellence for online retailing, not adding bells and whistles to make customers dazzled. 

Having the right people, culture and structure unleashes innovation and helps to attract great talent and rejuvenate existing talent to better engage with customers. Simply clicking or walking into a store should become a therapeutic experience and it is impossible for customers to escape without getting exposed to new discovery and buying another product. What retailers are selling shouldn’t be only a product. Time is the most precious commodity as money can’t buy time. Whatever helps to save time by cutting clutters and making seamless experience across channels would help customers and help retailers. We often neglect it but that’s what truly defines what retailers should do to succeed in an intensifying online retailing war.