April has flown by and here’s some stories which got me interested this month.
- App Stores, Check it out – all the cool kids are doing it
- Online shoppers are waiting two days to buy
- Are you calculating the lifetime value of your customer?
- Emptying shopping carts: when should etailers empty customers’ shopping carts?
- I’ve had a look at the growing trend of click & collect, definitely one to keep an eye on
- Sounds simple, but content needs to be relevant to the search query if you want conversions
- Google Buzz stay safe kids video, hmm if you need a video to show you how to stay safe….
- Every news-writer has a Dashboard with Metrics determining his compensation
- Using social media for niche business – have your cake and eat it
- Tricky one, but just how much impact does an offline campaign have online?
- A marketers favourite question, what’s the value of word of mouth these days?
- Google introduces “Remarketing”, maybe should have been called “Reminding”
- AdWords, sure everyone can do that but RedFly are the first to jump through the new qualifications and are now (the only) certified partner in Ireland. Well done Redfliers
- Voting in the IIA Net Visionary Awards?, check out Fiona Hilliard‘s blog for Argus Car Hire, Best business blog by a mile
- Is it wrong I recognised most of these? The Evolution of Advertising in Sports Video Games
- Those Hunky Dorry Ads, who’s getting their knickers in a twist?
- Contrary to popular belief, the digital revolution is not limited to advertising industry
One of Ireland’s best known bookshops Hughes & Hughes went into receivership recently citing high rents and the competition from online competitors. Fair enough, the recession and lower travel numbers through their airport outlets would definitely effect sales – and there’s a certain unforeseen element to that, but online book buying has been around for ages.
I buy a good chunk of books, around 30-40 a year usually in batches of ten or so – almost exclusively online with the reason being that online websites do the hard work for me, offers me suggestions and make it easier to buy in bulk and to buy impulsively.
Here are three ideas that traditional bookshops could learn from the Internet:
1. Stop Trying To Compete With Online
Right now bookshops are trying to play catchup with the likes of Amazon & BookDespository by mimicking their features but without the distribution, value or service. I checked out the online store of Ireland’s best known bookshop and most books are shipping in 3-5 days. OK, it’s not 24hrs or same day like the big online stores but they really hamper themselves with delivery charges of €4 as well as the uncertainty if the book is even in stock. As a consumer there’s three great excuses not to buy online a) Slow delivery, b) Might not be in stock; c) Delivery cost was 50% of the book value.
Applying an offline model to an online store is a poor idea if you can’t be competitive or offer some method of differentiation. This creates a poor perception of the offline bookshop if the online store price can be easily compared to online only stores.
2. Connect Online & Offline Stores
The functions of an online store should not be significantly different to that of a bricks & mortar store, especially in terms of distribution and promotion. A bricks and mortar store merchandises it’s shop window, shelves and point of sale, it’s no different from how a website merchandises it’s homepage, pages and shopping cart. Right now offline stores treat their online presence like a totally separate channel. Ideally both stores should at least compliment each other and at best connect with each other. Here’s what would be great, you’re browsing for a book online, and the website shows that you can buy it and then collect it at your nearest store, or at least tell you if it’s in stock at a store. Failing that, how about free shipping within 24hrs!
There’s so much more that can be done to connect the same consumer to either the online or offline store, utilising an online profile to keep you up to date to book suggestions, online specials, new products and in store offers.
3. In Store Book Finder
The great thing about buying books online is that you can simply input an author, book title or ISBN. Book shops already have an inventory system, but this is seriously hamstrung. Recently I dropped into book shop in Dublin looking for anything by Sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, I couldn’t find anything so dropped over to the information desk where the nice lady tapped in the author details into her terminal and pointed me over to the relevant sections. Hold on a minute, she probably not only got the shelf number, but also the stock number, titles and other related goodies. That’s the kind of thing that should be made accessible to all customers making it easier to find books they want, and books they didn’t know they wanted.
These are three ideas which could form the basis of developing a greater connection between a bookshop and their online store; which would give them a competitive edge over online only competitors. We know it’s cheaper to buy online. If a bookshop used their advantage of having a physical store by embracing online interaction, Not only do I think it would be hugely successful, it could be the decision that saves their business.
Undoubtedly one of the major obstacles when buying online is the cost & speed of delivery. In Ireland this has always been an issue with small items often costing more in delivery than the item itself, and large items? forget about it. Click & Collect is the growing trend of businesses allowing customers to purchase online and collect offline. Superquinn as ever are on the ball, already up and running with two stores utilising click & collect.
Elsewhere, click & collect is exploding in countries like France, which is no surprise as they have been early adapters with steady investment over the past decade. Websites like ChronoDrive, AuchanDrive, E.Leclerc Drive and supermarket giant Carrefour are all making significant investment in this area. Together ChronoDrive and AuchanDrive have almost 40 drive-in locations with a commitment to double that number this year alone.
The reason that this has become popular in France and in general is one of convenience. Purchasing online allows you to take advantage of tools like shopping lists, comparisons and the ability to quickly purchase the items you need. Getting in your car and driving to a pick up point allows shoppers to organise and schedule collection when it suits them. This is an important distinction to the home delivery service where you are required to be at home to receive the goods. It makes shopping easier and more convenient, French stores have noticed this and have suitably adjusted to their customers needs.
While the idea might be relatively new to Europe, Walmart in the US have had success with their implementation of Site-to-Store. Others are sure to follow Walmart’s lead, and a recent report in North America shows that over 1/3 of stores are planning to implement a similar service before the end of this year.
Adoption of click & collect has been a little slow in Ireland with the uptake mainly among electronic stores like Komplett, Elara, D.I.D Electrical and I suppose Argos reserve and collect follows the principle anyway.
Buying bulky items online and then collecting them is a natural progression where delivery costs can be significant, for example delivery of an item like a TV can cost anywhere from €20-50 depending on the store. The real shift will be from once off purchases to everyday ones like groceries, just like Superquinn above. It won’t be long before Tesco offer a similar service here as they are already trialling in the UK and also have the advantage of their Tesco Direct online store.
Other supermarkets here very slowly made the move to listing their products and offers online, again only really Tesco are making a significant effort allowing you to buy online with home delivery. A quick survey from friends and twitterfolk shows a mixed bag in terms of Tesco service (concerns over fresh items and replacement products). While other chains offer an online ordering service, it doesn’t appear like any have made the important move to promote their offering.
The days of not having a fully up to date website which is integrated with your bricks and mortar store are already numbered, over the next few years it may well be the one factor that kills your business.