“One dirty little secret on the Internet is that nobody’s selling anything yet.” That was a QVC executive’s admission to Network World back in 1994, when online shopping was in its infancy. At that point in time, consumers were just beginning to embrace ecommerce, and even then it was with great trepidation.
Fast forward two decades and wow, how things have changed. Online shopping has grown and multiplied into complex strands. Gone are even the days when consumers followed one of three paths: go into a store, order online for home delivery, or order via a desktop computer for collection from a fixed till in the store.
Today, shoppers want everything faster, cheaper, more convenient; they want to interact with retailers on multiple devices; they order in one channel to collect in another; they demand delivery on the spot. Retailers rueing this rise in expectations have one major catalyst to blame: mobile.
Mobile has successfully disrupted traditional routes to purchase, and completely changed shopper behaviour patterns. There was a watershed moment last month when mobile traffic to retail websites overtook desktop for the first time, while stores are morphing into experience centres, with mobile interactions at the heart.
These developments have signalled a new challenge for retailers: reach consumers through all the devices they are using, and meet new mobility standards, to serve and retain customers.
Marketing plays a large part in this. It’s important to present a common face to customers in all channels, and to optimise interactions for smartphones and tablets. However, the impact of mobile disruption penetrates far deeper into the business.
Today’s consumers are using mobile devices to fit shopping around their busy lives, and expect delivery to follow suit – which rests entirely on the strength of retailers’ operational networks.
Only those retailers with complete real-time stock visibility across the network will be in a sufficiently agile position to respond to multi-channel, multi-device demand. Yet according to Gartner, only 55% of companies have both cross-channel inventory visibility and the ability to transfer that inventory across channels.
Never has the phrase change starts from within been more appropriate to the retail industry. Organisations must build their business models and operational processes around how consumers shop today, not their historic patterns, to meet ever-rising expectations.
And with global mCommerce sales forecast to hit £413 billion by 2018, the sooner retailers can start embracing this change, the better.