Chain Store Age recently posted an article about Google Express. It seems that households equipped with Google Home can now shop retail through the voice-activated assistant.
Amazon has a similar service in place known as Alexa. It looks like the so-called "internet of things" is set to invade the retail shopping ecosystem. Should you be worried about the above as a merchandiser? YES. Why? Because of the negative effect on your retail clients -- and how that will eventually dry up merchandising jobs.
It's true that services like remote shopping help make lives easier for people. No question. But they also disrupt traditional patterns, like heading to the store to do some shopping. This pattern change reduces foot traffic through the store. In turn, retailers might close doors, reducing the demand for merchandisers.
Ecommerce hits home.
Ecommerce is a big concern for brick-and-mortar retailers. It's popularity has been steadily rising because of convenience. That's what shoppers want these days. A few years ago, Forbes reported that "50 percent" of today's shoppers were already "expecting the ability to buy online and pick-up in-store."
Numbers don't lie – ecommerce has taken a bite out of brick-and-mortar sales for years. Estimated ecommerce sales as a percentage of total retail sales has increased every quarter since 2006. It's gone from around 2.5% to 8.5% of total sales in 10 years – to around $94 BILLION.
Don't get me wrong. Ecommerce can be a great channel for physical retailers of all sizes. Giving shoppers another way to buy merchandise from them can open up a productive revenue stream -- at lower costs than store sales. But, some (weaker) retailers might have to close doors if foot traffic dries up. And that's an issue for MSOs. Remember that our job is to INCREASE traffic for retailers. (Rant: Today I was in a grocery store was was treated rudely by a field merchandiser. And this is core to the problem. Please don't be that person. End of rant.)
Now it looks like folks won't even have to go to a website to shop for merchandise that your clients carry. They'll just have to say "OK Google, order laundry detergent." Well, you can see where this might be a problem for retailers – and a problem for you-- right?
This is another step in the digital shopping revolution. A step that can potentially destroy some merchandisers – if you're not at the TOP OF YOUR GAME.
Help physical stores compete with ecommerce.
What can merchandisers do? In many cases, you may not have the authority to have a direct effect on in-store losses from ecommerce sales. But...you can have an impact by providing retail execution excellence each time you and/or your reps step into the store. Here are few high-level suggestions from our 30 years in the business:
- Help to make it easy for shoppers to get the products they want while they are in the store. Have a plan in place to ensure best sellers are always in store, and on the floor. (Customers DO NOT like to miss out!)
- Make the in-store shopping experience pleasant. Keep up on areas like signage, facing, and displays so people can easily locate their favorite products and find new ones.
- Track field activity in real time. You've got to capture information while reps are in-store and share information to your team immediately in order to keep store performance optimal.
- Respond quickly to client issues. Have the tools and processes in place to immediately react to in-store and supply-chain disruptions.
People still like to shop in-store – and will continue to enjoy the experience. After all, ecommerce sales are still less than 10% of total sales. In fact, Harvard Business Review pointed out that ecommerce growth has slowed over the years. But as shopping convenience improves through advancements in technology, fewer shoppers will walk the aisles.
You want to do all you can to help the retailers you serve avoid any catastrophic outcomes from online shopping "creep". Or risk losing to ecommerce.