You may have caught this article on Tech Crunch over the weekend about how few good shopping apps exist for the iPad outside of deal sites or just a few days earlier was this one from Internet Retailer with research about the growing gap between retailers and consumer demand for good mobile messaging. These two articles join a host of others that I’ve read, digested and turned into a simple conclusion: digital has yet to get retail.
I know this is a shocking statement as digital marketers [which I am one of] are usually shouting about how bad a job the offline world is doing at catching up or getting it but let’s face the basic reality, we’re missing the point too.
Take a current example: if you go to Google and search for “buy fireworks” 9 out of 10 of the listings for me are online sources. It’s the 2nd of July and since the fireworks are probably for the 4th, this presents absolutely no value. Or how about a less event driven issue: take out just about any retailer’s mobile app when you’re in a competitor’s store and search on a product. I’d bet that 9 out of 10 times the first thing you see is how to buy it online [over mobile hopefully] and the last thing [if it's even there] is the retail option… despite the fact that you’re out, real time, and want it now. Even comparisons are rough… For all of the talk of “showrooming” it took me over a month to pick out a new laptop mostly because half the models I found weren’t displayed in any local store and I needed to “see” them to buy them.
The bias starts with the DNA of those who make digital happen
Whether you’re a marketer, a startup founder or just randomly made it to my blog that you’re here implies you are almost certainly a “tech adopter” on some level. As such you’re probably the first to get the new app, the first to have bought into Prime & Shop Runner so you can get it faster and you’re not afraid to have a car shipped to your house — the same is true of everyone who makes digital solutions.
Thus what we’re seeing in these articles and from shopper comments all over the web shouldn’t come as a shock… We’ve got digital departments with world class leaders building great campaigns and tools but almost always to drive to their channel’s P&L or localized goals… We’ve got tons of fantastic startups out there but when they think commerce, most stop a web option. We’ve got a debate over the value of stores, the effect of showrooming yet few have connected one with the other for a demo or a local shipping [hey Best Buy: geek squad should deliver, store to door].
In the past few months I’ve see this gap emerge right infront of me with Giftery.me… We built a site for gift shopping and we started the entire thing with 100% digital purchasing options only… like consumers would never want to buy a gift in a store last minute [hah]. It’s a hard world to back out of, to attribute sales, to bridge the gap, but it’s obviously what’s expected by, well, everyone because no one really shops entirely online or off.
It’s not about retail OR etail, it’s thinking retail + etail
There’s no doubt that ecommerce is the way of the future but while I once advocated that future was everyone buying nearly everything online, more and more it’s clear that the future is everyone using digital to buy. Mobile to compare and research. Social to validate and discuss. Ecomm to order or reserve or hold and see locally. There’s simply more value in thinking about how to use one side to bridge the weakness of the other and vice-verse.
Turning back to the numbers depending on the sector somewhere between 8 and 15% of sales probably happen online now…. sure some categories like consumer electronics are projected to skyrocket from there but today, and even “tomorrow” the “direct” sales opportunity is still small potatoes compared to the “influence” opportunity for digital on all of sales. After all, the channel is just a purchasing point.