Retail: Retail's Final Frontier?
This is the second of a three-part series examining the current and future state of brick-and-mortar retail and how it’s being integrated into other forms of retail. Part 1 ran in our June issue.
The Internet provides marketers with the ability and responsibility to know their customers in much greater depth than does the retail model. The Web model also enables marketers to exploit that knowledge far more effectively.
As we mentioned in Part 1 of this series about the fixed asset distribution models of retail stores, they’re just plain “dumb.” They treat all comers like new customers with whom they have no prior history. And that’s a wasted opportunity.
The Internet can be exceedingly “smart,” however, because it allows merchants to speak directly with consumers in a language they understand, about those things most important to them, at a time they’re most interested in hearing about them.
The Internet represents a real marriage between data segmentation, as developed in the traditional offline marketing world, and the cost-effective ability to conduct one-to-one communications, as developed in the digital world.
Many retailers grew up in an environment of detachment from the ultimate consumer due to long supply chains and intermediate distribution points (retail stores, grocery stores, car dealerships and so forth). The idea of “getting to know” customers often has been more theoretical than practical.
Merchants certainly believe it’s a good idea to know who’s buying their merchandise. But beyond conducting basic consumer research, which amalgamates consumer data at the cost of actionable specificity, retailers are a) culturally ill-equipped to really know their customers in great depth; and b) don’t have the expertise, resources or tools to transact with customers on a real-time basis.
Tools Cheap, Easy to Get
The good news is that Internet tools are readily available to enhance retailers’ ability to make real connections with their customers. They’re quick, surprisingly inexpensive, easy to implement and deliver deep customer insight in real time.