By Guy Swarbrick, Senior Consultant, EMEA, Channel Enablers
On the surface, it’s a difficult time for any vendor that sells to consumers through traditional retail channels. Household name retailers are disappearing on a regular basis: in the UK, Comet and Jessops have gone in the last six months, with HMV teetering on the brink; Virgin’s retail music business has disappeared from French streets during the same period.
The reasons for those failures are many and varied — and to blame consumers’ movement to online browsing and buying for all of retail’s wills would be dangerously short sighted. But there’s no doubt that e-Tail has played a significant part in the failure of all these, and other, retailers.
Still, for those vendors that are committed to the future of face-to-face selling to consumers — and there is a future — this is a time of enormous opportunity.
The changes taking place in brick-and-mortar retail fundamentally have changed the rules of the game. Retailers grudgingly now admit that they don’t have all the answers, and they’re looking to vendors to help them.
Strategies differ. Some retailers are driving to deliver more value to consumers through advice — not just on product selection, but on how those products work with other devices in the customer’s home — from mobile phones, to tablets, to coffee machines. Ensuring this improved service and in-depth information on inventory requires a different kind of sales person who understands products way beyond the features and benefits. That additional knowledge inevitably comes, in large part, from the vendors.
Other retailers are becoming true multichannel players by integrating store and online shopping through services such as ”click and collect,” the model of allowing the customer to buy online but collect from a store. Department store John Lewis, for example, allows customers to buy online but have the item delivered to the nearest Waitrose supermarket.
Merchants also are taking a more refined approach to their inventory strategies. They are focusing their in-store assortment to better manage inventory, but are adopting the eTailer cost model, which is allowing them to extend their range. So, consumers can order items online either at home or using an in-store kiosk, and have their products delivered to their location of choice.
Retailers favor vendors who take the same approach, providing a suite of POS and digital assets to create a seamless brand experience across all retail channels and formats.
As retailers reduce their fixed costs versus the eTail model, they are looking to reduce the number of brands they carry. The vendors that remain will be those who adapt to this changing environment and work with the retailers to better serve consumers when they choose to purchase using a store — whether it is for advice and demonstration or simply as a collection point, which is another opportunity to sell them another product. The vendors that are more successful will be those that lead the retailers through at least part of the journey.
Guy Swarbrick is Senior Consultant of EMEA for Channel Enablers. Swarbrick has more than 20 years of experience in the high-tech industry and is a specialist in channel sales and marketing. During the last 15 years Guy has consulted to high-tech leaders such as HP, Microsoft, Siemens, Orange and Canon to help them develop their channel strategies and implement more effective routes-to-market. Prior to becoming a consultant, Guy worked for Microsoft and Dell. In both positions, he was responsible for channel marketing for direct and indirect channels.