The Retail Revolution
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.