Is Retail Dead? I remember wondering when I read about Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods about its potential impact on small businesses.

We know that Amazon has been testing a grocery store where shoppers who already have an Amazon account, go shopping and their items are automatically entered into their “account” and they leave with their items while their account tallies their purchase, and its paid for with their registered card on file.

I also know that recently Walmart has purchased two online fashion businesses (one was for women and just recently a men’s fashion line) to shore up their online offerings.

What is going on? Is Retail dead? Well, no. It is changing, yes.

What does that mean for small retail businesses?

Online purchases are up. Consumers are ordering more and more online.There are many statistics that support this. Google has been pushing hard for websites to get SSL certificates in the past two years and they are doing this by saying that they will give a “nod” in search engine rankings to those that have SSL certificates on their website. Thus giving more confidence with online purchases.

Often times, if they see something they like online – they really don’t want to step into the retail store, they want it now – and will wait for a couple of days to have it shipped to their home. Or they may pay a little extra for that overnight shipping.

What does it mean? Consumers are demanding or want:

  • Fast shipping
  • Free shipping
  • Convenience of ordering online when they want it

Then there are those that do want to step into a retail location, to touch, feel, try on and then go home, look in their closets, look at their budget or see what they have coming up in their personal schedule or they may be checking their gift list – then put the items on their wish list, and order the items when they are ready to order.

What does it mean? Consumers are demanding or want:

  • Items are available when they are ready to order
  • Items are available to try, feel, look
  • Items can be shipped as a gift or for themselves
  • Free shipping or shipping as a gift
  • Fast Shipping
  • Items can be placed on wish list

This is not “showrooming” – this is when you have regular or loyal shoppers. Showrooming occurs when the shoppers are looking for the absolute lowest price they can find on a particular item. They are not looking for service, convenience or quality or anything else special – they are just looking for one thing – price. They won’t become your loyal customer.

My thoughts pertain to those that have a business with an established base of clients. It means that your thoughts on value and consumer service have to pivot again. This time we all need to look at technology and applications on how we as retailers (brick and mortar) can deliver on differentiation and stay on the forefront with our clients.

You can still deliver on consumer service – both in store and online. Now we’re being forced to step it up even further.

What else can we do? If you’re thinking, we cannot compete with the big stores – think again. Yes, you can. You have clients who do NOT want to shop at the big stores; they would rather shop with you – the local, small business retailers. What is it they like about you and can you step it up – make it even more unique?

I’ll give you an example, right now I have been watching a Facebook page of a local small boutique retailer located in a trendy downtown (who will remain nameless), for the past six months, who consistently posts a nice fashion “lookbook photo” once weekly and every time, she gets tons of inquiries if she ships. Every week she says no. No website. They have a Facebook page, Instagram page and a retail location. I see very little engagement on the Facebook page. They also use mobile marketing. I know, because I signed up for it. They use it to drive people to their store with offerings of discounts. What about those that don’t want /or can’t to come to the store? No e-mail marketing either – I know, I subscribed to receive their e-mail newsletter.   I might hear from them once in a blue moon. Does anyone see any missed opportunities here? Does anyone see potential issues? If you’re not sure – send me an email and I will share my thoughts with you.

If you’re still not up to par with the latest technology and applications as your client base is going to evolve, you might need to rethink your reasons as to why you’re not keeping up with the changes.

Resistance is futile.