Riding the three-way of (online consumer) love

Gotta love the RedShed?

“..someone else, somewhere else, is eating a bigger and tastier mouthful of your favourite lunch.  While you’re sleeping.”

Recently, while waiting on the car being serviced, I wandered round the corner to The Warehouse (twitter: @thewarehousenz), to kill some time. It struck me that I hadn’t visited for many years. Noticed a few changes since then – the place looked tidier and better signed, there appeared to be more staff, and the customers were a more diverse bunch*. However, it was the things that hadn’t changed since the early 2000’s that really caught my eye.

Such as brightly packaged discs of silver – CD’s and DVD’s. Yes, real life physical objects, neatly stacked in front of me, practically as far as the eye could see. Leafing through the shelves, ‘browsing’ to maybe chance upon a bargain. Wide swathes of the crystal cases that got my heart racing over a quarter century ago, when they were new, and latest, and cutting edge. It brought on a bout of melancholy, thinking about the past, wondering at progress, and imagining our capacity for change. Now replaced by iTunes, Spotify and Rdio real-time music streaming, and ‘online piracy’ (as the record labels might describe it).

Retailers, be they rag trade or music stores, have had to move pretty sharpish to diversify previously sound, sacrosanct income streams. Tailoring the seasonal offer by betting that x combination of y widgets will produce z sales. Quite a balancing act at the best of times, and one which the interweb thingy has made a whole heap more difficult. From a narrow, simple game of buy and sell, it’s become this broad swathe of leviathans, niche retailers, and ‘new thinkers’ piling into what used to be a relatively simple, ordered marketplace.

The music retailing scene has changed radically, and the rest of the retail marketplace has been watching carefully, to see what changes will be wrought on them by changing delivery methods. And that’s the nub of it, as the internet’s only a communication and delivery mechanism. However, it’s an extremely responsive one if you, the retailer are able to think differently. Tim Berners Lee a smart chap indeed..

Which online retailer are you:

  1. ‘Wait and see brigade’. Imagine that setting up a homepage will mainline into the Web? Well sit down and wait to be disappointed by the response, and feel free to dismissively write off the ‘hype’.
  2. ‘Sitting on the fencers’.  Some are database-centric online catalogues of product, copied over from an excel sheet, with no thought to the central purpose of retail, whether online or not. Others have toe-dipped their way to putting a select few of their vast physical product range online, but unless you’re an extremely focused operation with few products, you’ll alienate your existing customer who’ll likely go somewhere else to find what you have in real life, but not online.
  3. ‘Visionaries’. You’re a visionary if you can see the massive change that has already happened in the way our urban lives are impacted and influenced by the dub, dub, dub. You’ve priced up local vs national and global reach, and jumped onto the rollercoaster that is web retailing. Your fancy website produced just five years ago is out of date, dead in the water. but that’s ok as you’ve budgeted for another new one. It’ll be along next month, with responsive and customer-centric features that integrate the actual buying process with a wider authoritative educational/ social role for anyone who’s interested. And there will be, as www is the great equaliser of our time. Gain knowledge, reject the known, branch out, try new stuff. Make mistakes, have fun!

Where there’s a fizz, excitement, exemplarily displayed wares, wow more than just pow-wow, and true interaction – whether actual or virtual, you’ll succeed no doubt. And in the meantime someone else, somewhere else, is eating a bigger and tastier mouthful of your favourite lunch. While you’re sleeping. So don’t hang onto tradition too long.

*Sir Stephen Tindall, CEO of Warehouse Group is hedging his retail bets very astutely. He helps myriad new business ventures develop via seed and venture capital – read more here. Through inspirational work via The Tindall Foundation, he’s become a philanthropic leader in NZ. And The Warehouse online website is getting there nicely too. Must be a busy bloke!

43words ©David Binstead 2012. All rights reserved.

And homage where homage is due, to Aretha – Queen of Soul. Inspiration for the slightly altered title.



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