Imagine explaining online shopping to someone who, somehow, managed to miss the last 20 years of changes. How could you possibly hope to explain that going to the store was no longer necessary? It may sound a bit like science fiction to tell them that many use a device smaller than a paperback book to shop. How about the fact that after clicking a few buttons on this technological wonder, there is a possibility of your item arriving in only one day? When we stop and think about the many changes that have happened to shopping in the last 20 years, it is almost unbelievable.
Successful retail stores have had to do some large scale adapting over this time period. 20 years ago, it was possible to make a telephone catalogue order with a U.S. based associate who most likely worked in an in-house call centre. Today, calling for telephone assistance may just land you in the middle of India, the Philippines, or even Saudi Arabia.
Retailers have also had to figure out how to be competitive in the relatively new world of online marketing. Competition is no longer about which store presents the prettiest window display, or which catalogue has the most attractive layout. Influential online retail stores today must do several things to become industry leaders. Here are several methods that have proven successful.
Historically, customers were drawn to a specific store because of friendly recommendations or advertising done over the television or radio. Today, people are still looking for friendly advice; however, they are looking in different places. Instead of asking a friend which shoe store might be having the best sale, they visit their social media website of choice, and search for a reason to shop with a particular retailer. This reason may come in the form of a friend’s electronic recommendation, a percentage discount when using a code found on the social media site or even an interesting or funny video posted by the company. No matter which way the potential customers are reached, social media is general at the centre.
Information gathering is a highly honed skill used by website developers today. Such information includes which websites were visited before and after each website, an IP address, and possibly even an email address. By capturing this information early, online retailers are able to find ways to make their websites more appealing to customers. This is often done by sending emailed discount codes and coupons and creating tracking cookies in the customer’s computer so that the customer identity is remembered.
20 years ago, large glass store windows were used to display new items in stock. They were also used to advertise the fact that prices may be reduced on other items. These window displays were often an effective way to draw customers into the store. Today, customers still love to feel as if they are getting a bargain when they shop. Successful online retailers know that a good sale or discount is a great way to attract more traffic to the website which increases overall sales.
Retail sales has made a huge transition in the last 20 years. This transition into the online marketplace has necessitated changes in overall marketing strategies. Success in the industry may now depend on a retailer’s ability to embrace the changes that have occurred and look forward for even more changes on the horizon.