Retail: The Final Frontier?
2. Bandwidth. Even if merchants could afford to communicate effectively with lots of narrowly defined market segments, most wouldn’t know what to say to them. And if they did know what to say, they wouldn’t have the resources to say it.
3. Customer service. Our culture has devalued good customer service. Customer service stalwarts are few and far between. Rapid turnover among sales personnel, the high cost of training and the daunting challenge of maintaining customer service standards across a wide-ranging retail network all have contributed to the problem.
Beware the Bombardment
Take all three of those and compound them with the simple fact that today’s American consumer is bombarded with more than 3,000 advertising messages each day. Consumers have built up greater resistance to advertising and marketing messages. Upward of 60 million households signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry in 2003, five times greater than first projected. DVRs now let us skip the commercials.
Naturally, the Internet has played a key role in retail’s demise. After 10 years “in development,” the Web finally is realizing its potential as the merchandise marketing medium of the near future, allowing merchants to fully anticipate the wants, needs and desires of consumers in real time and with unprecedented flexibility.
Few Adapting to Web Well
But herein lies the problem: Despite the fact that virtually all merchants know they need to make the transition to the Internet, few are doing it well. Even those who’ve jumped into the digital world with both feet tend to apply many retail business conventions to their Web sites.
These companies are failing to recognize inherent differences between their online and offline business models. Consumers have far greater control on the Internet than they do in stores. They can dictate the terms of their shopping patterns.