Online and offline were once two very separate worlds. But with the rise of online shopping and in particular mobile e-commerce, the distinction between online and offline is blurring rapidly. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll already be aware of the increasing dangers of e-commerce, online shopping and the serious effect it’s having on retail businesses.
Unfortunately, our classic brick and mortar stores are quickly becoming the more unpopular way to shop, and although we might not like to admit it, most of us are guilty of using online shopping for our go-to source of retail now as an alternative.
Online shopping has been soaring over the last few years due to it’s simplicity. Compared to the efforts of physically going to a shop and looking around for what you need, it’s quicker, easier and more convenient for the majority of people to do it all in a few clicks from the comfort of their own home.
Not only that, but the product range online for most retailers is arguably wider and more varied. It’s very common to spot items on a store’s website and then not find it when visiting the store itself. This is because there is much more work and attention being pummelled into the growth and development of e-commerce than there is in our walk-in retailers. For instance, whilst the typical surviving bookstore at the corner of the street offers around 500 references on its stalls, Amazon has got hundreds of thousands of books, making it totally incomparable. The internet is full of online retailers offering 10 times or even 100 times more products than the average retailer can possibly dream of.
In addition to this, there is also the added aspect of digital personalisation and technology expansion contributing to the success of e-commerce businesses. In today’s industry, t’s very rare for a company to not have a professional business website, and stores have followed suit with this more and more in recent years. Online retail has become such a phenomenon that it’s now more common for small businesses in retail to begin with a website initially and build it up until there is potential for a physical store. A definitive example of this would be the majorly successful retailer; Missguided. They started as a small e-commerce company selling fashion online. They’re now one of the most renowned names on the market and have opened stores in Manchester and London.
On the other side of this, the more classic retailers who have been in the thick of it for decades have now had to adjust their techniques to keep up with the on-going game.
But at the core of all of these changes and progresses, is the job market.
It’s obvious to spot the decline in the retailing job market due to all of these developments. Whilst online businesses boom, physical stores are being left behind. However, although we’re seeing a decrease in the demand for jobs like sales assistants, store managers, store personnel and administration in stores, we’re seeing a huge increase in developer jobs, social media jobs, marketing jobs and digital jobs.
Instead of looking back into the past when it comes to retail, we need to shift our attentions to the future of retail; and how technology is aiding that future.
For example, omni-channel retailing has converged the online and offline shopping experiences. For retailers who practice this approach, prices are consistent in all formats, and consumers can choose between numerous options such as shopping online with home delivery, shopping online and picking up at a store, shopping at a store and taking merchandise away, or shopping at a store and having it delivered to their home.
Many retailers are also attempting to make elements of their online experiences similar to their stores, and some retailers, most notably Burberry in the UK, are going the other way, attempting to integrate elements of their online presence into their physical stores — through software that allows virtual trying on of clothes, or live links to events in other stores or even other countries.
Fast-fashion retailers like Zara, TopShop, H&M and a whole host of others who are harnessing the power of internet-based technology in all aspects of their business — design, manufacturing, and logistics — are growing very rapidly and in many cases taking over larger spaces once inhabited by big box retailers like department stores. Along with convenience, these stores offer the latest styles as reasonable prices that are updated quickly and continuously, in ways that simply weren’t possible before. For retailers, the sky is truly the limit thanks to the expansion of technology within the industry.
Whether we choose to view that as a good thing or a bad thing is down to us.
It could be said that the entire world is evolving into a very technology-led era, so the changes are inevitable and we should all embrace them rather than shun them. On the other hand, it is a huge shame that our walk-in retail stores haven’t had much of a look-in since e-commerce has been booming. Of course, in big cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham, shopping is something that is made into a full experience as opposed to a simple buy-and-go. Huge shopping complexes and hubs are what most customers will flock to when doing a big, varied shop such as their Christmas shopping. Perhaps in response to the private nature of online shopping, the public experience of shopping has become more heavily intertwined with other communal experiences. For example, pop-up stores, famous names attached to a collection for a specific brand, strong art programs, enhanced programming, better restaurants, child play areas and food courts are all enhancements to the ceremony of shopping .This is something that will likely never go away and will continue to flourish. But for smaller businesses and stores that are just starting out on standard high-streets, the egg is harder than ever to crack.
On a much wider scale, we are seeing more shops being shut down and closed because they simply don’t have the brand or the backing to keep up the pace amongst the big names and competitors. The only way to tackle this in today’s industry is to focus on the e-commerce trends and build yourself an empire within the virtual online world first. It’s cheaper, less time-consuming and more convenient for business owners and it also gives them much more time to market their brand and get all the necessary experience and research in the world of retail.
It’s evident that retailers have taken the lead in addressing the challenges and opportunities provided by the internet through integrating the online and physical worlds to provide a number of connected platforms to reach their customers. Shopping centre operators and developers are not far behind, focusing on enhancing the experiential qualities of retail environments and in bringing a variety of new venues and experiences into their centres. And for shoppers, it’s been a win-win.
It’s also been a win-win for anyone with experience in the IT industries; such as developers, software specialists, programmers, technicians and project managers. If you’re a person with a skillset in these areas and are looking for an opportunity within retail, we might have the answer you’re looking for.
Have a look at our current opportunities here, or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org