Time to shift into the reverse gear?

GDJASUJAIn good old days, Direct mail used to be a tool to generate sales, and now it’s moving customers from their desk top or mobile into stores. Stores remain a key part of the customer experience. Even now, consumers are more comfortable shopping clothes in stores and they can perhaps motivate Amazon to open up its own fashion apparel stores, featuring Amazon private labels. Or, Amazon might just buy an already existing chain of retail stores. The journey from Brick-and-mortar —-> Online —-> Online + brick-and-mortar….Amazon's Great Indian Sale 2018When asked “Is retail dead?” at the recent Custora Carma conference in New York, Carlos Alberini, Lucky Brand’s CEO replied “No. But I think what is dead is traditional retail…And those companies that continue to operate the way they did don’t have a chance. Putting the customer at the center is really the only way to win.”

CARMA is a forum for marketing leaders to share their strategies for navigating the complex new era of retail. CARMA’s message is “Go From Customer Data To Revenue, Faster.” Custora combines deep machine learning expertise or artificial intelligence with user-specific accessibility to provide customer analytics tools required by retail teams in this era of modern online world where practically every marketer has access to a flurry of disparate data sources, disconnected tools, empty buzzwords, and conflicting information. They face a very difficult challenge of leveraging customer data to grow their business. The ultimate goal is remove the “mass” from mass marketing with software tools that focus on customers as individuals with unique needs, likings, desires and resources.

World’s richest man Jeff Bezos’ Amazon is the king of online retail platforms catering to millions of small and big manufacturers, traders and agents. But Amazon is fast transforming itself from merely being a shopping platform to becoming the world’s biggest online retailer of self-owned brands. World’s second biggest technology company has been quietly gathering data on consumers’ buying pattern/behavior, what they are really buying, and possibly, the key data about the supply chain.

According to a recent LifeStyle Monitor’s news report-cum-survey Amazon surpassed Macy’s this year as the largest seller of clothing in the U.S. They did it by selling a lot of basics, like socks, underwear, and workwear. Amazon currently has 120 private label brands, 80 percent of which cover fashion or apparel. According to this report Gartner estimates Amazon apparel sales will reach $40 billion by the end of this year. The survey also reveals that consumers are still more comfortable shopping clothes in stores. Despite more and more consumers becoming digitally savvy, they still prefer to buy apparel in an actual store (72 percent). They also like to go in-store if they have any questions before purchasing clothes (66 percent), as well as to follow-up with post-purchase questions (55 percent). This has given rise to an speculation that big online retailers, specially Amazon, may be expected to open up their own brick and mortar apparel stores to exclusively promote Amazon private labels. It is also possible that for this, Amazon might just buy an already existing chain of apparel fashion stores very similar to their recent acquisition of Whole Foods chain of grocery stores.

The trends in the online business world seem to be moving in the reverse gear. There were times when ‘Direct Mail’ used to be a tool to generate sales at stores. Now marketers have to move customers from their desk top or mobile device into stores. This can be more convenient and comfortable for both buyers and sellers as they know precisely when and where to meet and for what. In future, it may become imperative for big successful online brands to compliment their efforts to win customer confidence and loyalty by having brick-and-mortar outlets at key locations to offer a fuller customer experience. In this respect, the Indian example which comes to my mind is that of lenskart.com, a successful online eyewear brand that has opened company managed retail outlets across India to have the necessary bonding with the customers, a must have prerequisite for this line of business.

So, its time to abandon traditional retail and shift into the reverse gear to say hello to the new online world of retail.

G.D. JASUJA
Managing Editor