Although the shopping process appears to be migrating relentlessly on to the Internet, local businesses may well be missing out on opportunities due to their reluctance to create an online presence.
Online shopping has become commonplace in France, with 52% of all consumers making at least one purchase per month on the Internet, reveals a recent report on the web-to-store phenomenon published by digital marketing firm Novedia in conjunction with geolocation specialist Mappy and market opinion survey institute BVA. “There’s a radical change going on in retail, real disruptive innovation,” underlined Laurent Moisson, Chairman of the Paris-based Novedia Group, during a conference on 12 September at which the report was presented. A survey carried out by BVA among small store owners and Internet users showed that 57% of the local storeowners polled have no website and that eight out of ten of those are not even planning to create one. This lack of interest in marketing and selling online may well be partly due a lack of time and knowhow. These are not the only reasons however. The survey revealed a serious gap between what these local retailers think their customers’ priorities are and consumers’ real priorities. “There’s a real disconnect between the informed consumer and local businesses that have very little digital culture,” explained Mappy CEO Pascal Thomas.
Local retailers need to foster the rise of the local store fan
However the current domination of the web giants could well favour a new era of hyper-local retail businesses. “Human beings have a gregarious instinct and so we’re seeing a return to the values of human contact,” argues Pascal Thomas. But in order to capture the value of the consumer information search process, which is very often carried out online, even the smallest businesses do need to post at least some basic information online – their opening hours and perhaps a virtual visit to the store. The second stage, points out Mappy, is then to equip them with mobile and web tools as part of a coordinated omni-channel strategy in which they should be using couponing, store-locators, ‘click and collect’ and geolocated push notifications. The aim today should be to put back some of the delight into shopping and give the consumer a new experience. So local businesses ought to be using an upstream online presence in order to capitalise better on their downstream advantages in terms of personal relationships, the report’s authors underline.
Large chains need to reinvent themselves
The report reveals on the other hand that the larger store chains have rapidly grasped the devastating impact that the online pure players could have on their businesses. As a result, many chains have taken steps to highlight their physical stores as basis for framing their on- and offline customer relations. Nevertheless, their initiatives tend always “to be organised in silo-fashion,” points out Laurent Moisson, advising: “Large stores need to adopt new, more flexible, more agile ways of working. They ought to be drawing on their customers’ profiles to improve their overall customer knowledge so that they can break with their old-fashioned iterative marketing plans and come up with more appropriate strategies.” In addition, they need to focus on training their sales force so that they can contribute real added value to the business. The sales team should be the source of competitive advantage vis-à-vis the pure players, who are investing in an ever-increasing number of activities.