The Re­tail Rev­o­lu­tion

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Kayla Cloete Im­age © istockphoto.com

We are liv­ing in the era in which chil­dren gasp in dis­be­lief when their par­ents re­call the days when re­tail out­lets closed at 17h00 and re­mained closed on Sun­days. In today’s world, re­tail­ers re­main open long af­ter the tra­di­tional busi­ness day has drawn to a close.

The logic be­hind the ex­tended hours is to al­low shop­pers the op­por­tu­nity to pur­chase their gro­ceries and browse for their wardrobes af­ter their work­ing day is done. We are no longer liv­ing in a so­ci­ety in which the wife stays at home to tend to the house­hold’s needs while the hus­band spends the day at the of­fice. Today, most fam­i­lies are dual-in­come house­holds.

Be­yond this, there is also the ar­gu­ment that in a world of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, where our al­most ev­ery de­sire can be met with a mouse-click, re­tail­ers are hav­ing to re­main open for longer in or­der to sur­vive. On­line shop­ping is a grow­ing mar­ket that al­lows con­sumers to make pur­chases 24 hours a day, which means that re­tail­ers ought to ex­tend their hours if they want to re­main com­pet­i­tive.

But rather than be­ing a neg­a­tive thing, ex­tended re­tail hours cre­ate a win-win sit­u­a­tion for just about ev­ery­one in­volved. Re­tail­ers are sat­is­fied be­cause they are able to gen­er­ate more in­come, con­sumers are happy be­cause they are able to do their shop­ping af­ter work, and the young, work­ing pub­lic are re­lieved be­cause the ex­tended hours brings with it job op­por­tu­ni­ties. If re­tail­ers want to con­tinue this win-win sce­nario, they also need to look to digi­ti­sa­tion.

Those who are smart will not fight for the “days of old” when stores closed at rea­son­able hours, but will in­stead em­brace the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion of re­tail. And a rev­o­lu­tion it will be, as the needs of the dig­i­tal gen­er­a­tion re­quire that the way re­tailer out­lets are struc­tured be changed. A re­port re­leased this year by Capgem­ini Con­sult­ing, a global strat­egy and trans­for­ma­tion con­sult­ing brand, dis­clos­ing the re­sults of a global sur­vey that reached 6,000 con­sumers and 500 re­tail ex­ec­u­tives, re­vealed that one-third of con­sumers would rather wash dishes than visit a re­tail store.

The re­port ex­plains that shop­pers are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dis­sat­is­fied with phys­i­cal re­tail­ers be­cause they can­not of­fer the same level of ser­vice as their on­line com­peti­tors. Those sur­veyed ex­plained that shop as­sis­tants are nowhere near as knowl­edge­able as the on­line ap­pli­ca­tions they’ve used, and in-store out­lets of­ten do not have the prod­ucts the con­sumer is search­ing for in stock.

Does this mean that the ex­tended re­tail hours are a sign of the com­ing re­tail apoc­a­lypse? Not nec­es­sar­ily. In-store re­tail­ers still pro­vide nec­es­sary func­tions for many con­sumers. Many shop­pers pre­fer pur­chas­ing cer­tain prod­ucts (cloth­ing, for ex­am­ple) af­ter touch­ing it and try­ing it on. Re­tail out­lets also pro­vide a sort of out­ing that many en­joy be­yond just buy­ing the es­sen­tials – “re­tail ther­apy”, as some call it.

Re­tail­ers then are nowhere near to be­ing an ex­tinct species. They just need to be aware of the fact that the needs of con­sumers are chang­ing, and they will need to be­come in­creas­ingly dig­i­talised in or­der to meet th­ese new needs. For ex­am­ple, in-store tablets and kiosks can be made avail­able for con­sumers who would like to or­der a prod­uct af­ter test­ing it in-store and dis­cov­er­ing that it is not im­me­di­ately avail­able in stock. Cell­phone charg­ing sta­tions can also be set up in-store so that shop­pers can con­tinue to browse while their mo­bile de­vice charges.

Th­ese strate­gies have al­ready been im­ple­mented in many in­ter­na­tional re­tail out­lets, and some lo­cal stores are catch­ing onto this dig­i­tal trend, such as the Yup­piechef store in Cape Town which al­lows you to in­ter­act with the prod­ucts in a phys­i­cal store which are usu­ally only pur­chased on­line. The rea­son why many stores are still lag­ging be­hind in the dig­i­tal re­tail rev­o­lu­tion is that re­tail­ers are strug­gling to mea­sure the re­turn on in­vest­ment of im­ple­ment­ing th­ese changes.

As tricky as it might be to mea­sure some­thing like this, re­tail ex­ec­u­tives need to ac­knowl­edge the fact that the dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion of shop­ping is the way of the fu­ture. They can ei­ther choose to move for­ward with it, or get left be­hind along with the days of 17h00 clos­ing hours.

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