Is retail succeeding or failing? It depends on who you ask. According to a recent Harvard University report, it is the latter. The truth is that the question is irrelevant and even damaging because it shifts focus away from the real issue, which is customer choice. Customer choice has become the center of all commerce. This article discusses the future of ecommerce and what it means for brands.
Traditional retail still dominates online sales – by more than $20 trillion, to be exact – and this tendency will continue. Amazon accounts for four-fifths of ecommerce growth in 2018 according to data of Statista. Winning brands don’t invest all their money in online marketing, however. Building appreciation and anticipation of a product happens in real life, even though a lot of people buy online.
Retail might look unrecognizable a decade from now. Which brands will manage to stay relevant? Those who are able to strike a balance between the online and offline worlds and grasp the complex interplay between them.
Complex ecommerce systems drive customers away. They are also difficult for companies to manage. While many brands are still using hosted catalogs, an increasing number is finding their disadvantages to outweigh their advantages. As hosted catalogs are loaded manually, it is difficult to keep stock, product, and pricing data current. Moreover, suppliers can’t market products to clients through these catalogs. It’s hard for buyers to make an informed decision because the data available is limited.
Many buyers and brands are turning to punchout catalogs as a result. They are dynamic with many configuration capabilities, the ability to provide pricing and availability in real time, to accommodate huge volumes of documents, and to improve customer service via high-tech user experience and faster order fulfillment.
The fact that more choices are now available to customers means brands can profit from serving a smaller niche than their main competitors. People will buy from brands, whose message they can identify with. According to Accenture, almost two-thirds of global consumers want brands to have stances on relevant and current issues. Going beyond marketing, this involves a personal investment, tangible or not.
A case in point is the company Bombas, which is giving away 10 million unsold socks. Perhaps there’s no better example of excellent niche marketing than the backlash against Victoria’s Secret in the latter’s face-off against ThirdLove and Rihanna’s Fenty. In Rihanna’s words, Fenty celebrates women in all forms, cultures, body types, and races. When asked whether Victoria’s Secret would include transgender or plus-size models in a show in late 2018 on that note, then-CMO of Ed Razek said no, because “the show is a fantasy.”
His comments led to his resignation and a highly critical letter by ThirdLove, published in the New York Times. In the letter, ThirdLove stated Victoria’s Secret “market men’s fantasies to women whereas…we live in the real world of women, who come in all shapes and sizes.” In the wake of these developments, ThirdLove saw its revenues soar. Evidently, people crave brands, with whom they have a connection beyond marketing and merchandise.
The power of content is not in its direct ability to sell, even though that is possible. Its real power comes from telling a story well and entering the audience’s heart. We know people buy with their hearts. A connection with content drives inspiration. Successful brands use visual, audio, dynamic text, and experiential content to encourage awareness, desire, interest, and conversion. Quality content can make the difference between the financial success and failure of a brand.
Samantha Wallace is a veteran tech writer and editor who has worked in several eCommerce companies. She has been covering technology online for over five years. She is the Content Advocate for Greenwingtechnology.com.