From shops to warehouses, from discount to premium: The future of retail according to eBay

adrian-christie-ebay Photo Steve DavisImagine customers leaving your store with goods but without reaching for their pockets.

Or imagine knowing what your customer wants before or as they enter your restaurant.

These scenarios are real and happening now, according to Adrian Christie from eBay/PayPal, pictured, during his presentation at the PRIA national conference in Adelaide last week.

Adrian confirmed what smart business people have known for a while; it is all about mobile.

Get strong in mobile commerce and you will stand like a beacon to shoppers

Perhaps the most noteworthy innovation in mobile commerce is PayPal’s Beacon technology.

When consumers with the PayPal app on their phones enter a store, restaurant or service provider using the Beacon system, their details are automatically communicated to the business, authorising purchases to be made without having to get out cards, cash or write signatures.

Similarly, at a restaurant, the staff will be able to see your previous record of wine purchases and offer you wines and dishes you are likely to like, rather than starting from scratch with you every time you visit.

There were some gasps of horror and some sinister looking eyebrows raised at the thought of this technology but it does signal the onward march of retail.

Start with the basics just to catch up

Perhaps the two most interesting insights within grasp of most operators today are:

  • the trend of embracing click-to-collect
  • the rise of bricks and mortar undercutting online pricing

It was noted that US retailers, who are considered to be three to five years ahead of Australian retailers in online innovation, have now broadly adopted the click-to-collect method of ecommerce.

In this approach to online sales, retailers offer consumers the CONVENIENCE of browsing and purchasing online, and then the empowerment of COLLECTING the items when THEY are ready to, saving them from shipping costs and wrestling with crowds and checkout queues.

Under this system, retailers start viewing their stores as warehouses rather than destinations.

Australia’s biggest local online retailer, BigW, offers click-to-collect and is now projecting online sales will reach one billion dollars this financial year.

The other trend Adrian noted is the move towards offering a premium price for same day or same hour delivery online.

He noted the example of someone needing batteries before taking a plane trip.

He said a retailer might sell them for $5 but offer delivery to the airport that morning or afternoon for $15-20 – a premium some people will be happy to pay for the convenience.

In a less extreme way, we have seen retailers in the US and in China start offering cheaper prices in store than they do online.

This ‘reversal of the trend’ is based on the insight that when you have customers in front of you, you have a better opportunity for cross selling or upselling them to other, higher-margin products and services.

No matter which way to approach it, if you want your retail business to remain relevant, you must start getting familiar with your smart phone, ditch any phobias you have about including it in the pathway to purchase for your operations, and embrace customers who have one eye glued to their devices when in store.





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